My parents, maternal grandparents, and a cousin of my generation who died when we were 13 are buried in a family plot in Nashville’s Woodlawn Cemetery. When my grandparents bought the plot, one of the things my grandfather liked about the cemetery was that all the graves were marked with simple, ground-level stone or bronze markers. My grandfather had grown up poor before finding a career with the Nashville Fire Department, and according to my mother, it had always bugged him that in a lot of cemeteries, rich folks had elaborate tombstones, while the poor might only have a headstone that would weather away quite quickly. He liked Woodlawn because he thought the simple markers were appropriate for the equality of death.
I thought of that when my folks were buried as well. It seemed fitting to me — they were humble people (probably more so than they should have been), and figured a minimum of fuss was more than sufficient. They were buried in a single, wide grave with a double marker in bronze, part of the regularity of a landscape that generally was only broken by the occasional sculpture or fountain one finds at these memorial parks.
Yesterday, an old friend whose father is also interred at Woodlawn visited her dad’s grave, and found that country star George Jones is now buried about fifteen feet away. It would appear that the standard of uniformity has changed.
I’m not outraged by this — Woodlawn is a business, and can make its rules as it chooses. As my friend noted with her standard grace and good humor, she sees it as an honor for Mr. Jones to have buried so near her father. Still, I think of my grandfather and my parents, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s wrong of me to hope that I can’t see Mr. Jones’s grave from my family plot.