All my mother’s ancestors are buried in the same small graveyard in the mountains of Southeast British Columbia. My great grandparents, who are buried there underneath a huge old Ponderosa Pine, were born in the mid 1800’s.  There has been a steady trickle of family members join them around that tree over the last 80 years.

The graveyard is at the end of a long dirt road in the middle of the forest. It’s informal, but it’s very well loved. And I love it. I love it because it gives my family and me a beautiful and easy place to come and be with our ancestors.

I’ve been part of burying many family members in this little graveyard, and it’s an amazing experience.  We dig the holes ourselves – little kids, old folks, everyone participates. We bury the urns, and we do it with care and attention. When we buried my uncle, we poured his ashes into his favorite guitar, and we opened a can of Coke and set that in the hole with him. Those were the things he loved and we used them to show our love for him.

When we buried my grandmother, we lined the hole with a piece of bright flowered fabric from the curtains she had made for her bedroom years before. We filled in the dirt, planted a wildflower on top, and each of us added a scoop of water from the lake she loved so much.  These ritual gestures help make the process much more meaningful.

We even have pets buried here. When my niece’s guinea pig died, my sister asked her where she would like to bury it. She was very clear, “In the graveyard with everybody else,” she said, “Because that’s where I’ll be eventually.” For me, that’s the heart of why this place is so special to me and my family. Ella was sad about the death of her pet, but because the graveyard is a normal part of her life, she knows that Whiskers is not lost, and that when her time comes to die, she won’t be either. When we can know that death is not disappearing, but just moving to a new position within the family, we can meet it greater ease.