November 19, 2017
It is a human impulse as old as the human race itself: care for the dead. Burial rituals and burial spots can be detected from times and in places where no other kind of ‘worship’ existed. Why?
It may have to do with a profound sense that there is only a thin veil that separates the worlds of the here and the hereafter. That veil grows even thinner at the time of death and remains so in the places where the dead repose.
For Christians, the places where the bodies of the faithful rest are especially holy because it is there, in those very places, that the resurrection of the dead will occur. This sentiment is beautifully expressed on the tombstones of the LaSalette Fathers in New Hampshire: Hic expectat resurrectionem – Here so and so awaits the resurrection. To visit a cemetery is to visit a place prepared for the direct activity of God.
In my comments on the annual financial report I mentioned the need to create and stabilize a source of revenue that could and would sustain our cemeteries until the day of resurrection occurs.
In the 1890’s five bucks was whole lot of money. When burial rights in a cemetery could be had for two dollars, an additional five to cover the costs of mowing, filling in collapsed graves and security for the resting places of the departed (perpetual care) seemed like a huge investment. Well, it was not huge enough. Very few cemeteries, no matter who owns them, are actually so well-endowed that their financial security is assured into the indefinite future. Ours are no exception.
One of the reasons that we are so interested in selling and capitalizing properties not in use at this time is to invest the proceeds of such sales in the perpetual care funds for these cemeteries. We are in fair shape at this time, but it is easy enough to foresee a time when all the available space for further burials will be used up and there will – obviously be no more income to those funds. We must secure them now!
We need, too, to recognize that cremation is rapidly becoming the preferred disposition of remains. We probably need to start remapping all or some of our available land – especially in Arlington, to accommodate and facilitate this development. This will extend the useful future of the cemeteries and prolong the time when ‘steady revenue’ will be available. But it is a development that requires a capital investment.
If we could find a half-dozen people who were interested in researching and planning this ‘development’, it would take a big burden of responsibility off my much-less-than-competent shoulders. If we could find a number of generous donors who would like to contribute to this development – in memory of their loved ones who are buried in ‘consecrated ground’ or in anticipation of their own need for a final resting place, that would take a huge burden of ‘worry’ off my pillow and allow us to use ‘new’ income for other projects.
Really, truly and ‘rest-less-ly’ yours,