Your Own Grave
by Lin Stone
"In Oklahoma you can be buried on your own property," an Old man told me at the Holiday Inn. "The county will even come out and dig the hole for you for just $50."
I prefer to dig my own graves.
Old skills are never forgot. Not when you need them all of a sudden like. So, it didn't really surprise me when the shovel fit my hand just like it always had. It even felt good. It felt right.
I dug the sides down straight, slick, pretty. I dug the grave deep. I was good at it once, like a ditchdigger with feet all squared. I was still a professional hole digger. Her grave would look good when I finished.
We didn't even know she was sick until she meowed with pain one day. The vet said it was about the same thing as leukemia. It was bad. "She only has about 30 days left."
He was wrong. In just a few days she could do little more than gasp. When it got real bad she would meow again, tearing at our hearts. Marleen cried for her and we got a clean towel to put her on in her favorite box and started for the vet to put her down. TC seemed to know where we were taking her. With her last strength she wobbled from the box and slammed to the floor. "She wants to die at home."
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A wish like that is understandable. We brought TC back to die on our bed where she had always loved to be, and carried her with us around the house in the box as we moved our activities from one room to another.
TC fought the good fight. She went not gently unto the night but defended her life with the same fervor she had defended her domain. She fought so well that in the end I had to put her down myself.
Surprisingly enough it was hard. You'd think I'd be inured to killing after all this time, what with the hogs, the cows, the dogs and the horses I've brought low to the earth, and then those I've helped the vet with. Even that time Sheilah had 3 legs cut off in the combine I had looked her right in the eye and pulled the shotgun's trigger, and then thanked God I had the strength to do it.
The last rancher I worked for would not kill the sick or injured stock he had. When cows and horses went down, he called the dead-man and I always made myself go over to see the job done right. He called the thing a dead bolt because it drives a shaft deep into the brain. His hands were steady and sure as he put it against their foreheads and snapped the trigger. I only saw him cry once, when a strawberry filly sawed her leg off in the barbed wire. "Horses are different," he said as he flung the dead bolt away and lunged for the cab.
I went off and done some more crying myself.
Horses are different.
So was TC. It was almost as hard as being asked to put Marleen down. I begged a special prayer of the Lord, and let her go. The old dead-bolt that took the filly down brought her low. I kept my eyes closed and begged for forgiveness. Then I covered her up forever.
Death is harder than blood to wash off. You can't tell when it is gone, and it will sneak back up on you when you think all of it was gone last time. I scrubbed my hands a dozen times, and still I wondered if my hands were clean.
As I sat down my mind raced away to ponder the old man who wanted to be buried in the hole dug by the county in his own back yard. His wife had been in a bucket of tears to think he would not be buried proper in a casket with some special preserving juice sloshed in his veins. But I was on his side.
We are born to earth with clouds of glory trailing behind us. There is glory waiting for us when we return. A simple grave -- well dug -- is better than the pyramid that hid King Tut.
Have you thought donating your body to science would help you to avoid burial costs? Consider this: months, maybe even years later, your next of kin may well receive a letter or phone call asking them what should be done with whatever's left of you after medical science is finished with your corpse!
Other Resources... Natural Death.
THE NATURAL DEATH CENTRE, an educational charity which believes that all of us should, and can, prepare for our own deaths and those of our friends and loved ones, and that this intense personal experience should as far as possible be under our own control, not that of medical professionals or big institutions.
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