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Examining my family’s grave differences - keeping the memories of our ancestors alive

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North Arlington Cemetery (Sheena Chi)
The Easter season is upon us, which means that my parents are doing a tour of North Arlington Cemetery and other plots around Hudson County, New Jersey with my cousin Diane.

This ritual is going on right now, as I write this on Saturday morning in my pajamas with a steaming cup of joe next to me. 

The threesome will fuss over the graves, clearing weeds after a harsh winter and planting flowers that will greet the oncoming spring. It is a cathartic ritual for them, one my mother has been trying to instill in me for many years now. 

“We just love it,” she beamed over the Bluetooth speaker system of my car recently. 

“I suppose the weeds will choke us down under when your father and I are dead and gone. Who knows what will be the shape of our graves?” Her voice trailed off. 

“Subtle as ever,” another Mrs. Farragher said, rolling her eyes in the passenger seat once we hung up. 

My mother knows this tradition will die when she does. I admire the way she chooses to honor those that have gone before us, though I could do without the Molotov Cocktail of customary passive-aggressive guilt that she tossed into the car when I choose to honor those that went before us in prayer and memory alone.  

This curation of graves is fastidiously managed in Athenry and Ballylanders, where my grandparents are laid to rest. Indeed, a tour of the graves is part of your Irish vacation whether you like it or not, and one keeps their head down in the back seat for the afternoon during these stops if one knows what’s good for him. 

That’s the contradiction that is Mike Farragher -- he writes essays and books to keep the memories of his ancestors alive, yet has no interest in visiting their graves. 

I look forward to continuing my rock and read tour to publicize a book that looks backward for the most part. Go figure!

The conversation inspired me to dust off the Last Will and Testament to ensure my last wishes are clearly stated. 

No coffins. No trip to the funeral parlor for embalming. No cemetery plot. No church. No eulogy. No crying over a grave. 

My ashes will be scattered and licked by the waters of the ocean while a bagpiper plays, and anyone who pays their respects cannot help but think of the great memories we shared in the past while firmly gazing on the horizon ahead at the same time. 

As it is in my life, so shall it will also be in my death. 

Mike Farragher’s essays can be found in a series of This Is Your Brain on Shamrocks books. For more information, visit www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com.

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