SPOKANE, WASHINGTON – There are lots of small flags displayed in the room.
There are also cute and cuddly teddy bears, and a few other toys.
A smiley-face balloon is nestled inside one vase.
Photographs are everywhere, showing people smiling, laughing and looking happy and content.
As if that wasn’t enough, the large windows offer a spectacular view outside of the mountains that form the backdrop to the Spokane River. It seems like a place to come to if someone wants peace and quiet, to meditate, or simply to take in the incredible beauty of nature.
Everything in the building, in fact, seems so life-affirming, that between the view of the mountains and the river and the radiant photos inside those glass containers, it all seems to distract one’s attention away from the main issue at hand: death.
For a society that clearly dislikes the scary and intimidating subjects of aging, dying, and mortality, a cemetery can be a somber place, a reminder of family, friends and even public figures that we have loved and cherished as part of their lives who are no longer with us.
Even the simple task of visiting a cemetery can be a reminder of one’s own mortality, a challenging issue in a society that craves diversions — from television to the Internet to energetic public events — that help drift our attention away from the unpleasantness of knowing that one day it will all end.
In the city of Spokane, Washington, there is a cemetery that does its best to let those coping with a death in the family put the emphasis on remembering how special that person was, and in a setting that is both luscious and soothing.
It’s called Fairmount Memorial Park, and with its lush green landscapes, tall pine trees all around you, and the ability to sit from high above and look down as the Spokane River rushes forward on its way to the Columbia River, it almost feels like the kind of park one would visit on a weekend afternoon to get away from the pressures of urban life.
The attraction of Fairmount, though, is not the same as what gets offered in a state park. Almost immediately upon entering Fairmount, one sees it: the grave stones everywhere. The names on many of the gravestones reflect the historic Nordic heritage of the Northwest: Nordstem. Van Scoyk. Vetere. Halvorson. Stootenberg.
The mission of Fairmount and the Fairmount Memorial Association, the non-profit that operates this and five other memorial parks in the Spokane Valley, is all about providing surviving family members and individuals with a tasteful and reaffirming way of dealing with a loss.
And if death is sometimes a business, this one is all made to look so attractive, so inviting.
The web site MedicineNet.com describes mourning as a cultural way of confronting the pain and heartache of the death of a loved one.
“As opposed to grief, which refers to how someone may feel the loss of a loved one, mourning is the outward expression of that loss,” the site notes. “Mourning usually involves culturally determined rituals that help the bereaved individuals make sense of the end of their loved one’s life and give structure to what can feel like a very confusing time.”
At Fairmount, the landscape includes cremation pedestal benches which advertise they can hold up to four urns, are available in many colors, and are fully engravable – a dignified way to pay a lasting tribute to a late loved one.
Inside the Peace Abbey Mausoleum, all of the flowers are fresh, with no imitation flowers allowed – and that is by choice of the association.
“Please help us in our efforts to maintain the overall beauty of the cemeteries,” a notice posted outside the mausoleum states. “Beginning February 1, 2013, only fresh flowers will be permitted on all indoor mausoleum and columbarium structures.”
Inside the Fairmount Mausoleum, there are five rows dedicated to the people buried in there, memorials that may have flowers out front, or perhaps more – photos of the loved ones, small pieces of clothing, toys, anything that may have held some significance in their lives. The dates when they passed away span decade after decade.
There is also a chapel in the mausoleum, for memorial services for the recently departed, and the bay windows offer a breathtaking view of the mountains that make Eastern Washington state so appealing.
In fact, stand outside the mausoleum, and turn right to see those incredible mountains, and then turn left to see the Ball & Dodd Funeral Home-North – a reminder, once again, of Fairmount Memorial Park’s central mission, to face up to death in a positive way.
If people are forced, by a sad or even tragic turn of events, to confront the issue of mortality in their family or inner circle, a park like this one seems to offer a satisfying and enriching way of doing that.
To learn more about Fairmount Memorial Park, call 509-326-3800.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.