Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-20 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
As we move through our retirement years conversations with friends shift focus from exotic travel destinations to final resting places. Our options are many and varied, making it difficult to reach decisions. Growing up in a simpler time, it was assumed that when I passed on, I would be laid to rest in the same cemetery as generations of my family before me. This is not to be, however, as my mother and her cousins made the exodus to Florida and are or will be buried there, leaving me and my cousins to find our own final resting places.
Pre-planning for our death and the afterlife is not something any of us relishes. We do it to give our loved ones the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the important decisions have been made and thoroughly discussed, eliminating the need for second-guessing. I hope we can give this the same gift to our children.
Being claustrophobic has added to the difficulty of deciding whether to be buried, cremated, or both. None of these end of life options is appealing to someone who is terrified of being locked in a small space and unable to escape. I knew folksinger John Prine understood my pain when I heard him sing, “Please don’t bury me in the cold, cold, ground.” He preferred to be cut up and passed around, with his “feet going to the footloose, and his knees to the needy.” The thought is nice, but I’d like some assurance that I won’t be needing all my body parts in my next life.
What I do know is that donating my organs and tissue after I die can save or improve as many as 75 lives. With more than 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, the Mayo Clinic estimates that 20 die every day because of the lack of donor organs. I’ve signed up with my state’s organ donation registry and have a donor designation on my state ID. Organ or tissue donation will not affect funeral arrangements.
Donating your brain to Parkinson’s disease research is another option to consider. It is handled separately from organ donation and can help speed up development of new treatments and increase the odds of finding a cure. Learn how you can contribute to the health and well-being of future generations by contacting the Brain Donor Project at 513-393-7878 or BrainDonorProject.org, or by calling the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).
In 1980 only about one in 10 people who died in the U.S. were cremated; today that number has risen to about half as it is increasingly known to be more economical and environmentally friendly. If you want to combine cremation with burial to get the best each has to offer, look for cemeteries that have an urn garden specifically set aside for this. Similar to burying your loved one’s dead body in a casket, cremains are sealed in an urn inside a metal or concrete burial vault in the ground. Above-ground burial space is available in a columbarium, a building similar to a mausoleum. Instead of crypts that entomb the casket and keep the remains above ground, columbariums contain many recessed compartments (cremation niches) for permanent placement of urns containing cremains.
Most people who want to be cremated have a plan for scattering their cremains in a place that is meaningful to them. Check whether permission and permits are required for certain spots, such as state parks or private property. When scattering ashes by boat, check to make sure you and any professional service you use complies with state and federal laws. If you prefer, place a biodegradable urn in the water that will dissolve without doing environmental damage. Scattering done from a plane, hot air balloon, or drone allow ashes to be distributed over remote scenic areas that might not otherwise be accessible.
Choosing a final resting place for cremains is limited only by your imagination. You can find companies that will do anything for a price, including:
So, after all of this research and protracted discussions with friends and family have I decided on a final resting place? Not exactly, but I am getting ever closer and more comfortable with the idea. I might request that my ashes be sprinkled somewhere fun like over one of my favorite stores or ice cream parlors where I’ve enjoyed hours of fun with friends.
A visit to my Dad’s grave in south Florida convinced me to opt for cremation. The afternoon I went, the heat index was an extremely dangerous 128 degrees. Meteorologists repeated increasingly dire warnings, cautioning listeners to stay hydrated and remain indoors whenever possible. So why was I wandering a cemetery with my husband Tony, and my 89-year-old mother looking very unsteady pushing her walker on uneven ground?
Each of them was certain they knew the location of my Dad’s grave and set off in different directions to find it. I watched them from our rental car with doors swung open as I had no key to turn on the air conditioning. I was poised to call 911 should either of them keel over from heat exhaustion.
Then, like a mirage, a man appeared out of nowhere bearing bottled water and cemetery maps. “What are you doing out here in this heat?” he asked me.
I made my end of life decision, I will be cremated. I don’t want my granddaughter wandering around in the heat looking for my grave. What becomes of my ashes I’ve yet to decide, but it’s a start. I can always revise my plans if a less claustrophobic option becomes available.