We have a situation in my house that we have not been able to resolve. I served our country and retired after 30 years in the military. My wife and I are up in age and have all of our affairs in order. We have one daughter, who is our life’s joy and she has been instructed on what to do at every turn, except when it comes to our burials. My wife has requested that she be cremated and have her ashes tossed over the waves off the island of Hawaii. I, on the other hand, would like for my wife to be buried by my side at Arlington National Cemetery. My wife shares your column with me weekly, Alma. What advice do you have for us?
Staying Together in the Afterlife
Dear Staying Together,
What an honor to receive a letter from you, sir. Thank you for your service.
I must say, rarely, if ever, am I stumped, but you’ve got me on this one. I mean it’s one thing when a couple is looking to purchase a house and one wants modern, clean lines and the other wants a colorful Victorian. I’ve even encountered couples not agreeing on the purchase of a car, one wants a sporty two-seater and the other an eight-passenger Mommy van. But this, this dilemma, my friend has me at a lost for words.
How do you dance with the wind at the end and find a compromise?
As you mentioned, your wife wants to be cremated and have her ashes poured to dance with the wind off the island of Hawaii. And you, my dear soldier, want to be buried, with your wife, at Arlington National Cemetery—and rightly so. That’s not just any honor, but one you’ve earned and fought the good fight for.
Again, I say, this is a stumper, because one of you has gotta give. I’ve prayed and made my decision. I think your wife should make her final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery. Now, now, now, slow down, it’s not, because you’re the husband, dressed blue, large and in charge. I think she should reconsider, because of where the two of you will be laid to rest, being buried at Arlington is a national honor.
As you know, the grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery honor those who have served our nation. Sprawling hills provide an amazing sense of peace and tranquility. I’ve been there, and it’s aptly described as, “rolling green hills…dotted with trees that are hundreds of years in age and complement the gardens found throughout the 624 acres of the cemetery. This impressive landscape serves as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual laid to rest within the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.”
Arlington National Cemetery is a sacred dwelling, your final salute. It is my wish that you two read my answer together, while you lovingly ask your wife to reconsider. Remind her that you just can’t imagine not having her by your side, especially at your final resting place.
How about this, maybe your daughter can go to Hawaii and release beautiful lanterns in your wife’s memory and that will allow her to at least have a part of her, even if only in spirit, released over the beautiful waves off one of the magnificent island of Hawaii, sort of like the opening episode of Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married Too.” If you didn’t see it, ask your daughter to show it to you.
Let’s not forget, your wife has dutifully served you over your 30-year career and she may feel very strongly about her final resting place. If that is the case, please figure out another way to bind the connection that you two have so graciously sewn over the many years. Do what you’ve done in the past to make it last. Let’s not leave your daughter a long list of complicated instructions, but a legacy of commitment, togetherness and a devotion of love. Continue that example of good, strong love in Heaven as it was on Earth, together at Arlington National Cemetery.
Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and The Washington Post. Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.