Q. The love of my life died a few years ago after a long illness and was cremated. His sister kept the urn in her home. He was all she had and I felt I had to accede to her wishes. She planned to bury the ashes near her home. However, her company has now transferred her 2000 miles away and she wants to lay him to rest in the new location. I won’t be able to regularly visit the grave. There is a cemetery plot in our area where many members of his family are buried, and I would like to see him buried there. His sister could eventually be buried there, too. What can I say to his sister to get her to change her mind? Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my love. This seems so unfair.
A. In the old days, most people were buried in the church courtyard, and that was that. But times have changed, and issues surrounding a burial may be more complicated. This is such a mobile society, which can create a divergence of interests among well meaning people. It’s certainly understandable that the sister might want the grave near her new home. At the same time, this change of venue will deprive you of the chance to spend time at the grave when you wish. Such visits can be a great consolation.
Your idea is a thoughtful one. If you present it in an understanding, considerate way to his sister, perhaps she might reconsider—especially if you emphasize how much you loved and miss her brother. You might also mention other friends and relatives of her brother, who will be unable to visit his resting place in the new location. She may never have thought of an alternative and be relieved to hear your suggestion. However, if she insists on her plan, there is probably nothing you can do.
But don’t jump to the bottom line. You may convince her. Maybe she’ll decide she wants to rest in the family plot too, when her time comes. At the least, it’s likely she’ll hear you out, and who knows – another idea acceptable to both of you might emerge. Often it seems there’s only one answer, but when people start talking other options become apparent. I wish you good luck in a difficult situation.
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Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes a.... She writes two advice blogs for Legacy.com: Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a new blog for bereaved spouses and partners.
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