27 December 2009

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

The first Blog Carnival for 2010 is entitled "The Final Resting Place".  The questions posed include:

In today's mobile society, does one choose a place near where they last lived? Or do they return to the place of their roots? Do they rest in a family plot? If so, and if married, whose family plot? How has the determination of the final resting place changed between the time of our ancestors and now?

I would say that practices for burial in my family have changed a lot over the years.  The majority of my ancestors are buried in Luzerne County, PA because, well, that's where they settled.  Families were buried together.  Together they lived on earth, together they were placed in the earth. 

Thanks to a cousin, Pat, in New Jersey, I have photographs of many headstones of my maternal ancestors.  Here are a few representatives of my maternal lineage, found at the cemetery at St. Mary's Help of Christians Church in Pittston, Luzerne County, PA:

Photo courtesy of Pat Sharpe Dunn

There is something quite interesting about the marker that gave me my genealogical start: That of John J. DOYLE (1920-1943).
So what is so interesting?  He has THREE markers.  The one above, of which I really do not know much about.  Is it in China where his plane went down in WWII? Is it in PA? I don't think it's in a military cemetery, as I couldn't find a listing for him in military cemeteries. 
The above two, however, are in the family cemetery at St. Mary's Help of Christians.  Same person, three markers.  He must have been loved.  Whatever the reason for three, it is apparent that his family wanted him remembered along with their relatives.

As far as my paternal lines, I know that my paternal grandparents died in Lewiston, Niagra County, NY and are buried there. I also know that my great-grandparents, Edward and Justina HODICK, died in Lewiston, Niagara County, NY but apparently are buried in/around Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA.  Nanticoke is where they settled and presumably where they have ancestors buried.  The only photo I have that may be a wreath for one of them is of a floral arrangement. The photograph was found among my father's collection and may be totally unrelated, but he thinks the arrangement was for one of his maternal grandparents.

Things have changed since my great-grandparents' time.  My grandparents on both sides of the family had moved to Western NY state, and died and are buried there.  My mother, having moved with her family to Arizona in 1977, died in Tempe, Maricopa County, Az and is buried in nearby Mesa.  My father has a pre-purchased plot right beside her. 

My oldest brother resides in Georgia, my middle brother in Texas, and I am in Tucson.  Hopefully our times are very far off, but how will we decide where our final resting places will be? Or will we? Will our loved ones remaining be the ones to make that decision? They don't have to be, with the availability of pre-need purchase available.  Generally, with our family so spread out, I suspect the deciding factor will be financial. Would my mother have preferred to be buried in the same cemetery as her parents? And her brother, who died in Va but was buried in the Falls? We never talked about it, so I don't know. 

I have always thought it sad that families are so often separated by miles, both in life and in death.  If I had my druthers, my entire family would be buried in the cemetery in Niagara Falls which holds the graves of my grandparents.  Of course, if my grandparents had had their druthers, they may have preferred to be buried in Pennsylvania with their parents. 

As a funeral director once told my father, funerals are for the living. And so, I suppose, are burials.


Life Goes On said...

I agree it is sad that families are scattered all across the country. Eventually I will return to Minnesota and be next to my parents and just south of my grandparents. My ancestors are scattered from the east coast to the west coast.

Anonymous said...

I came upon your post because I am researching my Grandmother's burial place which I believe to be in St. Mary's in Pittston, PA. I live in CA with no contacts in the east. Do you know how I would contact cemetery officials. I would appreciate any help you can give. Thanks.