After my father died I knew that we’d need to think about a headstone, but was too busy dealing with insurance stuff as well as my own grieving process to want to handle it right away. I sort of thought it would be good to have a headstone installed for his birthday and then maybe go back to Elgin around that time to see it with my family but that day came and went with no headstone or plan to order one.
Finally, my mom and brother started the process by visiting a few headstone vendors in the Elgin area. They settled on the vendor they liked and chose a size and color they liked for the headstone. When I was back in Elgin at the end of August last year, Mom wanted me to go with her to see the one she and my brother picked out. I was completely up for it because the headstone place was across the street from Elgin’s coolest cemetery.
Mom showed me the stone they’d chosen and we began the ordering process. All went smoothly until we were asked to choose a design. I assumed that there were a set number of designs and we would choose one of them but the salesperson said we could have whatever we wanted for a design. It was a lot to think about so we went home and talked about it.
We thought about what was important to Dad. We thought perhaps sheaves of wheat to symbolize his life as a child growing up on a farm. We thought about an anchor to symbolize his time in the U.S. Navy. We thought about crosses because he was brought up a Christian. We were solemn because this was a solemn task.
To break the solemnity I laughed and wondered aloud what about bluebirds? Mom shook her head. Not bluebirds. No, people are going to see this. It is in a cemetery. I assured her I was only joking, but my husband thought it was a good idea and so did my ex-sister-in-law. Later when I asked my brother about the idea, he liked the bluebirds. We still had to convince Mom. We assured her that no one would understand the bluebirds except his close family. We threw in an anchor and ribbon for good measure. She finally said she was okay with it.
After several back and forth emails with the headstone company they sent me a draft of the design. Above his name and birth and death dates was a ribbon being held by two flying birds. In the middle of the ribbon hung an anchor. It was perfect. Everyone agreed. We told the headstone folks to go ahead and use that design.
My brother visited the grave recently and uploaded a photograph of the headstone to Facebook. Here is a copy.
And in case you are wondering, why bluebirds? — shh, don’t tell mom I told you that he, like Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail, had a pair of them them tattooed on his chest. (And he was proud of them).
Many thanks to Elgin Granite Works for the fantastic job they did on the headstone, for making sure the Military plaque on the back was put in place properly and for keeping me updated on the process.