We buried my grandmother’s body yesterday. Rather, I should say, we gathered around the casket at the sight where her body was eventually to be buried. I have presided at numerous graveside services already at this point in my career as a pastor; and, one of my greatest irritations is the plastic nature of most grave sites. As was the case yesterday, it is now almost impossible to see any signs of the wound in the ground where the casket will be laid, the dirt displaced in order to fit the casket in the earth, even the grass along the edges of the rectangular opening. Often times, the only place to find anything “natural” is in a metal pail off to the side, in case the pastor wants a “visual aide” for the moment when he, or she, proclaims “from ashes, to ashes; from dust, to dust.” Further adding to the synthetic, sanitized artificiality of it all, often the “dirt” in the bucket is sand, not even from the sight itself; and, Astroturf© covers the entire scene, including where the plastic chairs are lined up under the tent awning in case of rain.
Yesterday, it was not my place to say anything. This was the service for my father’s mother, and his sister’s, my aunt. As for me, let the piled dirt and torn grass be visible. May the gaping wound in the earth, its dark soil and stark openness be visible to all. May it rain and get muddy and maybe even have the pastor slip and fall on his, or her, nice grey suit. May the coffin be lowered all the way down while everyone is watching; and, may everyone grab a handful of dirt from the nearby pile and throw it on top of the wood for good measure. Feel the grit in your hands; hear the sound the rocks make when they land on the casket. And don’t let there be Astroturf© anywhere within 100 yards.