From my husband, regarding final arrangements for my father-in-law:
On Monday, February 2, two days after the wake, we transferred my father’s urn to the mantelpiece, and my mother, Greg and I went to Mt. Olivet Cemetery to choose a burial plot. Mt. Olivet is an unusual cemetery. It was established in 1874 by act of Congress and was put under the jurisdiction (and, very important in the American West, the water supply) of Fort Douglas. In those early days (Utah only became a state in 1896), the federal presence and the presence of religious groups other than Latter-Day Saints was controversial in Utah, and soldiers and non-Mormons had difficulty obtaining proper burial grounds. It was originally administered by a board of directors consisting of representatives of five leaders of the major Protestant denominations plus the commander of Fort Douglas, and it was to be open to everyone in general and to U.S. soldiers in particular. (The Jewish community had founded its own cemetery, B’nai Israel , meaning sons or children of Israel, in 1864, where Utah’s first and so far only Jewish governor, Simon Bamberger, is buried.)
Nowadays, amid the many Greek, Italian and other names, Civil War veterans, and members of fraternal orders such as the Masons, Elks, Moose, and Woodmen of the World, one also sees the names of many prominent Mormon families, such as Marriott, Walker and Barlow – as well as the grave of Gov. Bamberger’s son and other members of the Bamberger family. We did not know all this when we chose the cemetery, but I think my father, an historian, would be intrigued by its legacy.
The reason we did choose this cemetery is its closeness to the natural environment. My mother likes the fact that, right after families leave flowers for their loved ones, the deer come down and eat the flowers. She even speculated about the variety of flowers the deer might prefer. Pam Valdez, whose family runs the cemetery, says she specifically warns people, in rhyme: “If you don’t like deer, don’t come here.” We assured her that the deer were a major selling point.
The deer make the cemetery unusual in yet another way: this is the only cemetery I know of with a “no hunting” policy. It even says so, right on the sign.
We circumnavigated the cemetery and looked at various areas, finally settling on a double plot at the head of the cremation area, shaded by trees. This is the spot.
This is the view facing the trees...
and facing the open area.
As if to provide a good omen, two does watched us patiently from the top of the hill amid the headstones.
My father will be interred there sometime in the summer of 2009, when the children and grandchildren can all be present. The interment will be arranged by Starks Funeral Parlor, complete with a folk guitarist and, I hope, deer-friendly flowers.
I hope this narrative is helpful for people who knew and loved my father but could not be present for the observances. To all, I hope this gives a sense of who he was and why we miss him so much.
May we all be comforted in our loss.
Post-script: My father was laid to rest on July 9, 2009. Here is a blog entry with the order of service.
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