Tuesday, September 14, 2010

laying Jette to rest

The real reason for our trip, of course, was to lay Michael's mom's ashes to rest. I can honestly say that I have never experienced a burial as a "laying to rest" before now; when I have seen coffins go into the ground, I've always felt a sense of panic and claustrophobia that had nothing to do with rest. When we scattered my mom's ashes in the harbor, they bloomed and billowed under water, full of motion; I can't think of them resting, per se, because they're part of something so dynamic and grand. But Jette feels at rest, at home, now.

I have never seen such a beautiful cemetery--it felt more like a garden than a graveyard, so green and lush, each family's plot surrounded by its own little row of hedges. Michael tells me that when he visited Denmark as a child, his mother would always take them to the cemetery to visit the family plot; his great grandfather had been the mayor of Struer and has an impressive headstone (which you can see below). The small hole waiting for Jette's urn was surrounded by coral colored roses and sunflowers; it looked festive and inviting, more welcoming than any grave I've ever seen. While there was a heart-aching finality to the burial, there was also a sense of homecoming, of her being where she wanted to be, where she belonged.
Earlier in the trip, we stopped at the amazing Roskilde Cathedral, which was originally built in the 12th century and has been the main burial site for Danish royalty since the 15th century. One of the more contemporary tombs incorporated three sculptures that so perfectly captured the experience of grief, I was brought to tears (you can see one of them behind Michael and Asher.) I was also brought to tears, for other reasons, in the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, but I'll write about that and more of our trip in another post. If there was a statue above Jette's gravesite, though, it wouldn't look like this. Michael and I have talked about maybe putting a small stone sculpture of a bird on or near her grandfather's stone to represent Jette, something peaceful, something that looks like it's home.


  1. I love the idea of sculptures over grave sites. The cemetary where my parents and two brothers are buried (Bronswood) is in a beautiful area - Fullersburg preserve in Hinsdale (as a former Chicagoan maybe you know of it Gayle). Beautiful landscaping but the headstones are very plain. I far prefer sculptures or the carved rock surrounded by levels of landscaping that Jette's grave is very pretty.

  2. I appreciate your reflection on laying Jette to rest and visiting family graves. I see the value in such rituals despite my preference for scattering ashes to the wind.