24: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

WARNING: This post discusses death.

As a cancer patient, the word "death" is often the proverbial elephant in the room. Oncologists don't talk survival statistics, and the topic of death isn't discussed. Friends and family don't mention it, although I know it has crossed their mind that I may die from this disease. 

When I was first diagnosed, my thoughts of my own death centered around thoughts of leaving my children without a mother. My biggest fear, upon starting treatment, is that all of the chemo, surgery, and radiation would make me sick (remember that when I was diagnosed, I felt fine) and that I would never get better. That I would never be well enough again to just be "mama," instead of "mama with cancer." 

Through my first rounds of chemo, between December and March, death was in the back of my mind, but that's where it stayed, for the most part.
Sometime between finishing those eight infusions and before surgery, my potential death became a more common distraction. Besides kid-related concerns, I thought of all the practical issues. Who would take care of the memorial arrangements? What would be done with my body? How long will my SO want to stay in this house? What about the kids? (I know...I said besides kid-related concerns...but they are a central part of my life and, eventually, whether it's months from now or many years from now, they will be strongly affected by my death.)  

I have known for a while that when my time comes, I want a "green" burial. Essentially, a green burial is one that does not use any embalming fluids, and typically, the person is buried without a casket but in a cotton shawl. It's a way to have a burial that has a smaller negative impact on the earth than a traditional burial - one in which the body truly can merge again with nature.

Now, this was even more important to me. I want Owen & Lucia to have a place to visit, especially if I die when they are still kids. Ideally, I wanted to find someplace where I could have a "green" burial, is somewhat close to Denver, and where the setting isn't entirely...morbid and depressing. I know, I know...That's a pretty tall order for somewhere full of dead bodies. But I looked around anyway, and I found something that really seemed to fit those needs. It's about a 45-minute drive from their dad's house, so it's someplace they could get to pretty easily. It's a newer cemetery, so it's not fully built, but they have a lot of information on their website. Since it seemed to have what I was looking for, I made an appointment to go and take a look. 

So on a sunny day in early April, my SO and I drove down to Littleton, Colorado. It's somewhat surreal to be walking around a place where you're considering being buried. Everyone there was very nice. We toured the grounds, and although they were still doing some landscaping, I could see their vision of what it would be like. The land is nestled in the foothills, and just to the north is a state park that has a lake for fishing and hiking trails. To the south is a horse farm, and to the east is more farmland. To the west, before the mountains, is the South Platte river. The grounds are set up more as a garden than a cemetery. I could easily imagine the kids walking around, sitting on a bench, enjoying the view and the flowers. I could see that it could serve as a place of remembrance, and hopefully even some comfort, for them. They have areas for cremation but a separate spot for green burials. I chose a spot in this area - a grassy area on the west side, near the mountains. There are flat markers, and the area is surrounded by benches. As an added bonus, there are sometimes hot air balloons passing overhead. 

On that sunny April day, my SO and I bought a burial plot for me. I told no one, until now, because I thought it would just be upsetting to them. For me, however, it brought some peace. Hopefully, I won't need to use it for many, many years, but it made me feel immensely better to know that in the event that I don't live to be an old, old woman, my children (anyone else) would have a peaceful, nature-filled, mountain-viewed area to come to and remember Mama (aka Rebecca). 

Artist's rendition of Seven Stones.