Monday, October 27, 2008


I know this isn't a very good photo -- but in the scheme of things that isn't as important as what I am pointing at. Let me tell you the story.

When Jer and I considered marriage - he was 45 and I was 40 - we had lots of living behind us and we needed to talk about integrating families, our different religious backgrounds, our ideas about money, sharing, entertaining and so on. We thought we were being very smart about it, and we were. Blending families is exceptionally difficult, and the less surprises you have in doing so, the better prepared you are in accomplishing it. We really made no outlandish requests of each other, but Jerry did ask for only one thing: he wanted me to take care of all the planning for my eventual death and funeral with a pre-need arrangement.

This was not a surprise because his first wife had passed away and he had to, on short notice, make all these arrangments under very stressful conditions. He did not ever want to have to go through that again. I understood and was certainly willing to accommodate him.

We married in 1975. I finally made my arrangements in 2004. This was not quite what he had expected, and frankly it wasn't what I expected either. I'll tell you why it so long to happen: I wanted to be buried in a cemetery that allowed old-fashioned headstones to be placed over the grave. And this just doesn't happen in California.

To be honest, I probably didn't look too hard during the first 10 years of marriage. It was when I started doing genealogy and became so dependent on information collected from headstones that I figured I'd better insure that down the road anyhone searching for me would find everything they wanted to know on a stone at my gravesite. And in order to get my full name -- Barbara "Bobby" Gail Dobbins Kirkpatrick Title - on a stone, along with the birth, death and a clever little saying like "She knew she was sick" or something like that, I was definitely going to need a large stone.

It is a lot cheaper and easier to maintain a cemetery with flat stones placed in the ground, and that is what is mostly offered. I did discover that if you are able to buy a plot from someone who originally bought that plot when headstones were allowed, then you can have an upright stone. But to keep this from happening, I am convinced that the cemetery itself jacks up the price of the plot so high that it just makes no sense at all to buy one of those. Better the original owner just go ahead and bury himself in it and utilize the lower rate.

Over the years I investigated tombstones and cemeteries all over the place. During several visits to family plots in Colorado cemeteries, I considered being buried there, because they still allow - and mostly expect - other than stone plaques that lie flush with the ground and get mowed over. By the time I retired at age 65, I still had not made my final arrangements. I had talked all these things over with him as I went along, and while I'm sure he thought I was crazy, he humored me.

In 2000 I retired. We moved to a lovely senior complex in Loma Linda, right next to a "country club," which is what the seniors at the complex called the cemetery next door. Montecito is a really pretty cemetery, flat stones notwithstanding. It is built in a canyon, wide at the point where it borders civilization and narrowing as it winds it way on the flatlands that go back into the canyon itself. There are lots of trees, lots of shade, lots of little running and flying critters around -- and is really a perfect place in which to end up. I had never driven into the head of the canyon, but one day in 2004, after a year when several of my friends as well as my only sister had died, I took a drive back into the canyon, saw an "ash garden" built there and immediately knew that this is where I wanted to purchase my property.

Jerry met me at the cemetery office with checkbook. Things went smoothly, except I did have a little skirmish with the counselor about the little brass plaque that will fit over my 6 square inch piece of property. The contract said this plaque would have three lines of writing on it. I told him I couldn't be buried there unless I could have more lines than three. He assured me (although he did not write it into the contract) that I could have up to 6 lines. So it became a done deal.

I am very pleased with my property and had my picture taken where I was pointing to the exact location. Even though the picture isn't so good, it sends me to the image in my head of the lovliest of resting places far back in that canyon, where all the little critters will come down for a drink of water to the "man-made" stream that flows close to my property. When I wrote my cemetery book about the Protestant Cemetary in Istanbul I called it "A Fine Place of Rest." That is what I think I have now at Montecito and I am pleased.

Oh, and what I am really going to have on the last line instead of "She knew she was sick" is "She Loved Her Kids."

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