November 2022

"Our Baby 1806" teaser image


"Our Baby 1806"

Abigail Graves


When an unwitting new Aggie first sets foot on campus at Texas A&M, it can seem like a lot. There are so many weird rules to follow and unique events to attend and strange traditions to learn. Catching up can be daunting, but the wonderful thing about Texas A&M is the ability to choose to participate in the traditions that are meaningful to you. Just as some people think the football games are too rambunctious, Fish Camp too cultish, or Aggie Muster too somber, some traditions are not for everyone. Therefore, it is necessary to base participation on what is personally deemed as important… and that goes for all of life. From first cry to final breath, the words we speak, the decisions we make, and the actions we take should be a reflection of our desires, our needs, and our principles. But why should that autonomy stop at death?

For some people, it doesn’t. More and more individuals are opting out of the conventional funerals of their ancestors for ceremonies that hold more personal significance. Traditional burials and cremations are being slowly replaced by obsequies that better reflect the passions and beliefs of the person who has passed. From the depths of the oceans to the farthest reaches of space, some of these methods of memorialization, preservation, and remembrance are rather… creative.

I have recently read an article on people who save the pelts of beloved pets once they have died. Whether the hide is turned into a coat, a rug, or a purse, it allows the bereaved owner a unique opportunity to remain physically close to their recently departed companion. Likewise, many people opt to preserve their deceased pets via taxidermy, weave the fur into a yarn that can be used for knitting or embroidery, or use the teeth and bones to create jewelry and windchimes.

Similarly, people have found unique ways to remember their loved ones even after they have passed on. Some people opt for a traditional burial and funeral service but with a unique headstone inscription such as “Game Over” or “That’s All Folks!” whereas others may forego the headstone altogether to plant a tree over the burial site as a way of giving back to the earth. And for those less tethered to the earth, human remains can also be launched into orbit around the Earth, buried on the moon, or sent beyond where any living person has gone before. These funerals are known as space burials, and it somehow seems fitting that the first one ever completed was with the remains of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek.

For those who do not mind cremation, the options for keeping a recently departed loved one physically nearby are countless. The ashes from cremation can be compressed into a diamond, mixed with paint, infused into tattoo ink, 3D printed into a Christmas ornament, or turned into a firework. For those who love the sea, some companies can mold ashes into a synthetic piece of coral and deposit it into a natural coral reef. And for those who love music, ashes can also be compressed into a vinyl record, a personal favorite of mine. I love the idea of a family wall of records, each one containing a recorded message from a long since passed family member followed by some of their favorite songs. In this way, generations to come would not only hear the actual voice of the generations before, but they would also get a deeper glimpse of the personalities behind the voices through the songs selected. The options for handling a loved one’s remains are limited only by the imagination, so it becomes necessary for us to consider the significance of funeral rites. Is the goal to simply have a memorial service for mourning? To fulfill religious or cultural traditions? To immortalize the departed in stone? To satisfy someone’s last wishes? Or to create a place to return to in the years to come? Many Christians are against cremation because of the significance of bodily resurrection to their beliefs. Many adventurers wish to have their ashes scattered in a place they once visited whether for its emotional significance or its sheer beauty. Many hobbyists want to be laid to rest in a way that honors their passions whether that be as a piece of coral in the sea or as scattered dust among the stars. And some people simply want to be somehow remembered even when all traces of them are long gone from memory.

I often think back to the cemetery in the middle of nowhere that I would visit when riding my horse through the Texas countryside. It was a forgotten cemetery, the entrance gate hidden by the tall, unkempt grass, the headstones overgrown with poison ivy. I would sometimes walk through the small lot, carefully weaving through the ivy as I looked at the headstones, most of which were too eroded to decipher what was once inscribed. There was one, however, that stuck with me. And, it was the reason I kept coming back. A small headstone, easily missed in the field of graves, that was simply etched with “Our Baby 1806.” No name. No date of birth. No family relations.

It felt strange to me to be standing in a place that once held such pain and sorrow and significance only to see it forgotten to time and nature, and I often wondered if it would have brought the parents peace to know that even now, over 200 years later, someone still thinks about their baby. That even now, after all memory of their loss and sorrow has passed out of living thought, someone still knows the grief they experienced. And that maybe, by not being forgotten, their baby still lives on in some way.

I think most of us would agree that the obsequies of friends, family, and loved ones is a sacred moment. Whether the goal of a funeral is to keep the departed close, to lay them to rest in a place of significance, or to have them remembered for years to come, there are innumerable ways to honor and memorialize those who have journeyed on from this life. From the farthest reaches of space to the depths of the ocean to a small stone in a forgotten cemetery, we all have the same fate in the end. So, why not choose your tradition? Or make a new one altogether? Why not be remembered in a way that is meaningful to you?


 

About the Author

image of author Abigail Graves

Abigail Graves

Originally from small beer-town Shiner, TX, Abigail is currently a master’s student in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in water resources. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M, yet chemistry is still her least favorite science. She works fulltime at an engineering consulting firm specializing in wastewater treatment plant design. She is married, has five dogs and loves anything nerdy, but will break some ankles on the basketball court if needed.

Read more by this Author

Related Content

Explore Grad Aggieland

News

Graduate and Professional School Launches Spring Awards Ceremony

The new ceremony will honor Distinguished Dissertation, Montgomery and Outstanding Mentoring awardees, as well as GRAD Aggies certificate earners. 

View All News
Blog

Work in Progress: Trials, Tribulations, and Traffic

Living in College Station for almost a decade means I have witnessed two things: a lot of construction and a lot of friends leaving. Read on to find out what those two have in common.

View All Blogs
Defense Announcement

Biomarkers of inflammation in canine chronic enteropathy

View All Defense
Announcements