My mother-in-law, Mary, who is from Ireland, once told me that in the olden days (whenever that was) the Irish would sometimes propose marriage by saying, “Do you want to be buried with my people?”
What a romantic offer.
I think about this all the time. It’s one thing to agree to “til death do us part,” but it’s hard to think beyond that. Eternity is a long time. And to be buried not just with each other but with the rest of the family?
When she first told me this, my husband, Brendan, and I weren’t yet married, and the idea of being laid to rest with anyone but my own family was appalling.
A funny thing happens, though, in a relationship. You slowly grow together, your lives intertwining more and more every day. Your family becomes their family and vice versa, whether you like it or not.
That process isn’t instantaneous. You pledge to become one on your wedding day, but in reality the process takes time.
Brendan grew up on a farm near Claflin homesteaded by his great-great-grandfather on his father’s side. His grandparents lived right next door.
That means Mary lived beside her in-laws for most of her adult life. Which is of course why she was telling me about the “being buried with my people” saying. She’d thought about it a lot.
A few weeks ago, we buried my husband’s grandmother, Deb, a sweet 98-year-old woman who was proud that she and both of her parents had attended K-State. Her father had been a veterinary professor at the school for a time.
Her death was sad for my husband and his family, of course, but also for me. Brendan and I have been together almost 12 years, and I had come to feel like she was my grandma, too. So we said goodbye to our last remaining grandparent in a small graveside service at their family cemetery, just a few miles from the farm.
Some of the gravestones there date back to the mid-1800s, which is pretty old for central Kansas. Many friends and family members came to give their respects and share their memories.
Mary said she was surprised by how sad she was about her mother-in-law’s death, even though they were pretty close.
They say when you marry a person, you marry their family, and it’s true. I love Brendan’s parents, but they sometimes drive me crazy. We’ve grown closer since the birth of my son, though. Basically I realized Mary is one of the few people who cares as much about him as I do. She doesn’t mind looking through dozens of pictures of him eating yogurt, for instance. We’ve bonded over that.
Still, it was a pretty big shock when, shortly after Deb’s death, Mary announced that they want to move to Manhattan to be near us. They’re getting older, they said, and they’re not sure they’re up to maintaining the big old house and surrounding property.
The announcement was shocking in part because of the family history they would leave behind if they sold the farm.
But let’s be honest, it’s also a little daunting to think of living across town (or down the street or next door) to one’s in-laws. There’d be positive and negative things about them living here, I’m sure. And who knows whether it will ever actually happen?
But I’ll tell you this: the prospect of spending the hereafter with my husband’s “people” suddenly sounds pretty easy by comparison.