It’s November, so naturally thoughts turn to death here in France.
It is a time of endings. All around us, nature is shrivelling up and battening down the hatches. The lake is a cold, grey sheet with rippling ridges whipped by the wind. Like the elderly themselves, the mountains have donned their winter caps.
Each French village has its cimetière and right now they feature colourful displays of chrysanthemums. November is their time of year. At La Toussaint on the first of the month everybody visits their dearly departed and sets a pot of mums on the grave.
I love visiting cemeteries. I discovered this unusual form of tourism when I was first in Paris many years ago. Père Lachaise is so beautiful and peaceful and it is amazing the famous names whose graves you stumble upon.
Our little village has no famous people buried here and the cemetery is small. Still, I stopped by the graveyard this week and was pleasantly surprised. First of all, by the gorgeous sunset view enjoyed by those sleeping their eternal sleep. And by the fresh flowers that decorated just about every grave.
It was November 11, Remembrance Day. The town war memorial is just outside the cemetery and it had been decorated for a small ceremony held that morning. It is fitting to see the memories of the dead who fought for our freedom kept alive, even while the world goes a little mad all over again.
But what shocked me at the cemetery was this sign:
It seems that whoever bought this grave concession, their time is up. Basically, there is no eternity in a cemetery unless you pay for it. I googled it: ‘perpetuité’ costs extra, when it is available. Certain graveyards don’t even offer it. Those that do charge a premium. In Paris, the most expensive, it’ll run you 11,500 euros.
I can’t help but wonder: what do they do with the remains when the concession ends? Dig them up and put them in a public burial area? It is ghoulish to think of.
Cremation offers no respite. As it illegal to spread or even keep ashes privately, you are obliged to pay a fee to keep them in a columbarium.
Death is a scam that I hope to avoid for as long as I possibly can. But when it becomes inevitable, I intend to go up in a cloud of smoke. Have my ashes illegally scattered somewhere, maybe in the middle of a lake.
My last act will be law-breaking. I kind of like that idea.
Do you visit any cemeteries or places of remembrance?