Friday, December 4, 2009

Bury me in a Garden

Cousin Heintz and me checking up on the relatives
in Huntwangen, Switzerland

On my second visit to Switzerland my cousin Heinz picked my friend Diane and I up at the airport in Zurich and took us to the little village H├╝ntwangen, in the canton of Zurich where my Great Great Great Grandparents came from.

I had been there two years earlier with my husband and was anxious to show my friend. Heinz and his brother Peter still own some of the original property where my ancestors lived and farmed.

We stopped in the village and to look at the spot where my relative’s home had once stood before a fire destroyed it. My relatives lived in the customs house. (This village borders Germany). Then we walked to the chalet of my Great Aunt who had recently passed on. The house was for sale – (about $250, 000. U.S. currency). Heintz showed us around outside. The house was a traditional Swiss home with the barn attached and the remains of a small fenced garden on two sides. Heintz found an old pair of wooden skis that he used as a child in the barn. He spent many happy days in this old place with his mother’s family during school breaks and weekends.

We then walked into what appeared to be someone’s home which it was but also a small restaurant where we had some breakfast. Since I speak no Swiss German and my cousin is fluid in English, Heinz proceeded to ask the owner about some of our relatives. Since both of my Grandparents were from here, seems I am more connected to this village than Heinz. We had a good laugh over that and then he said we should go and check on some of my relatives.

He walked us over to a cemetery where the gardeners, yes gardeners were busy weeding and planting out the gravesites with summer annuals. I looked at him funny because he had told me on the last visit we couldn’t visit our ancestors gravesites because after 25 years they dispose of them (compost I guess) and give their spaces to the newly departed. It is because space is such a premium in a small country he explained. When we got there I realized that was the case and these sites were within the last two decades. But as he pointed out as the village was still very small and not many new folks ever moved in that many of them were indeed related to me.

It is interesting to be able to go back and see where your relatives once lived and worked. It gives you of sense of grounding that I can’t really explain; a piece of belonging really.

Heintz explained to me that when a loved one passes on in Switzerland you can put them in a cemetery for 25 years. You must provide finances to pay for the gardener during that 25 year internment or commit to doing it yourself but if you don’t keep it up you will be billed. At the end of 25 years you can have the headstone if you wish or if you are still here to get it.

This past August I was blessed to travel to Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Austria. This time we saw some other cemeteries in Switzerland and in Austria that were gardens and I’ve decided that I want to be buried in a well tended garden covered with herbs! I know I’m going to being living in an eternal garden with the Master Gardener Himself after I take my last breath but it makes me happy to think that my gravesite full of beautiful plants and flowers could bring peace and joy, a reminder of what is to come in heaven to those still on this earth.

These cemeteries are such a contrast to the ones I have visited in the states. No artificial flowers allowed here. They even provide vases and water if you want to pick fresh flowers to place on the gravesite.


Werfenweng, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

1 comment:

Julie said...

How comforting for the family to be able to actually tend a loved ones resting place. I wonder if the family gets the ashes when they are "moved out" or if they are just gone one day. Very interesting...

Love ya Cindy!