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A grave matter

By Merrill Ogden - | Mar 1, 2023

My kids have often asked me where I want to be buried when I “cash in my chips.” Well maybe it’s not often, but it seems like it to me.

I have to think that they are motivated by a sincere interest in having me “rest in peace” per my desires rather than any other motivation. I believe they understand that I seem to be living my life in accordance with that famous bumper sticker you see on the back of Winnebagos, “I’m Spending my Children’s Inheritance.”

I suppose that choosing where one is to be buried has some symbolic significance. I know a guy who moved to St. George years ago. After he’d been there for a year or so, I asked him how he liked it. He said, “I love it. I’m gonna be buried here.”

My oldest son is the one who seems to ask me the “burial venue” question the most. I think he’s serious about it. And I guess I have to respect that. (Sometimes I wonder if he knows something about my health that I don’t know.)

If his mom and dad both get a bite of a lethal mushroom, he wants to be ready. Wait a minute, Diane doesn’t eat mushrooms – so, in that case I’d be the only one dead. OK, we’ll go with the standard catastrophic “hit by a Mack truck” scenario.

I suspect it’s one of those family birth order deals where the oldest child feels responsibility for things. I don’t buy into 100% of that family constellation developmental psychology – but much of it has merit and is tough to refute.

My answer to the question, “Where do you want to be buried, Dad?” is almost always the same, much to the annoyance of my kids. I say, “Plant me next to Robert Louis Stevenson.” Then, I used to add, “Of course you know he’s buried in Tahiti.”

After having said this for quite a while, I was surprised to discover that somewhere along the way, I’d confused my facts. The fact is that Stevenson is not buried in Tahiti. He’s in Samoa. I’m not sure when or how I got confused, but now I’m setting the record straight. Kids – it’s Samoa!

Stevenson was the author of “Treasure Island” and many other books and essays. He was never a “poster boy” for good health. He searched for the perfect climate and felt like he had found it in Samoa. He built his estate on the slope of Vaca Mountain.

Sadly, he died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 44 while sitting on his verandah with his wife. The Samoans promptly made a hardwood coffin for his body and the next day he was carried to the top of Vaca and was buried.

His wife returned to California and after her death, years later, her ashes were brought back to Samoa. The ashes were buried next to her husband.

There is a web site called www.findagrave.com which I enjoy browsing at times. Among other things, you can name search famous people, read little biographies of them and look at pictures of their graves.

That’s the site where I was looking when I got my “Samoa adjustment” relative to Robert Louis Stevenson. I suspect that genealogists would love this site. You can locate cemeteries around the country and see pictures of them. There are millions of grave records catalogued on the site.

Some people may think it’s morbid to be interested in graves, but I’ve always been comfortable in cemeteries. My grandpa who lived to be nearly 95 years old often paid visits to the cemetery. He said that he had more friends there than down in town.

I’ve always liked what Woody Allen said about death. “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Where I’m buried when I’m dead and gone probably isn’t all that important. The important part of that death concept is that I do intend and hope to be “gone” away and apart from my body. And if the good Lord lets me pick up that body in the resurrection, it’s fun to at least think about doing that in Samoa (or Tahiti for that matter).

— Merrill


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