Widower Wednesday: Where to Bury the Second Wife?

An anonymous emailer writes:

Just a question about burial arrangements--where should the second wife be buried?  My husband was married for 12 years when his wife passed--he has a double place with double marker all filled in except his death with their children on the back.  We have been married over 34 years with 2 children together and can't come to a decision about what is "proper."

This is a good questions and one that I’ll admit I don’t have a solid answer, in part, because Marathon Girl and I have yet to resolve. (More on that in a minute.)

First, keep in mind that cemeteries and gave sites are for the living – not the dead. They’re places where friends and family can pay their respects and remember that person. The dead don’t care where you burry them. My guess is that they’ll have other things on their mind when they pass on to the next life.

That being said, my ideal solution is one where the widower dies and has a wife buried on either side of him—each with separate headstones. I lean this way solution partially because after the late wife died, I bought another plot next to hers and my family bought a couple plots in the same area. Putting me, Marathon Girl, and the late wife next to each other would be an easy, economical solution. (Side note: the cemetery where the late wife is buried doesn’t allow double headstones so that’s not an issue.)

Marathon Girl wants to bury me and her elsewhere. She has her reasons for this and I completely understand why she feels that way. I’m not offended by this and don’t take her desire as a slight against me, the late wife, or my first marriage. When the topic does come up I joke that whoever dies last will get their way. And, to be honest, unless we can come up with a solution, that’s probably what’s going to happen. It’s not a perfect but it’s not one that we don’t feel is worth arguing about—at least not right now.

For the anonymous emailer, it’s obvious that you’ve talked about the subject. I’d be curious to know what you’d like to do, what your husband wants to do, and why you can’t reach a compromise. Death and burials can be an emotional topic so my suggestion, if you haven’t done so already, is to find the widower’s emotions behind what he wants to do and see if you can reach some kind of compromise based on that knowledge. Just keep in mind that this is a subject not worth arguing over if it’s going to drive a wedge between the two of you.

I wish I had a more concrete answer about what is “proper” for the emailer and everyone else. This is a subject that I’d love to hear what solutions or compromises readers of this blog have reached. Please post your comments and I’ll update this post with insightful comments.

Update: Some great comments on this thread. Annie, Elizabeth, Brenda, and Vickie (did I forget someone?) all suggested cremation as an alternative. This gives people the option of scattering the ashes in more than one location or somewhere far, far away from either spouse. It’s something I hadn’t thought of mostly because it’s frowned upon (but not forbidden) in my faith but I think it’s a good alternative to think about. I appreciate you guys bringing it up.

The other point that Carol brought up and something I didn’t think about was honoring the new marriage. Commitment to the first wife spouse ends at death and when widowers remarry, our obligations change. (Of course one could argue that once the second wife or the widower dies, then their obligations change again. J)

Again this is a personal decision that should be discussed by both parties but one that I would hope wouldn’t cause an irreconcilable difference between a couple. In the end it doesn’t matter where the person is buried. When someone dies, he or she will always live in the hearts and minds of those who knew him or her and they can be remembered and honored wherever the living reside.