Achin’ for Acres

P1030057No more elders passin’
without my kids askin’ —
“Papa, whose tombstones are those in the yard?”
Family gotta stay close,
all us gotta stay close …

— Arrested Development, Achin’ for Acres

The first time I heard this Arrested Development song, I thought: tombstones in the yardReally?  I don’t think so!  But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve, well … thought about it, and thought about how much this makes sense.  Why wouldn’t you want to bury your dead close to you?  And as the song makes plain, you can’t do that if you don’t own the land you live on.  My landlords are lovely people, but I can’t imagine they’d have been too thrilled if I had suggested digging up the back garden so I could keep my aunt close.

When I went to Jamaica, I started seeing small sections on people’s property sectioned off in some way or other and then noticed that these sectioned-off bits were personal cemeteries.  At first I was a little taken aback, but no more.  I actually find something warm and comforting in this idea.  Why should you have to pay crazy amounts of money to have your loved ones buried among strangers?  Why should you have to follow someone else’s timetable in order to visit a gravesite?  And cemeteries are rarely conveniently located.  Why should I have to travel for hours to sit with my father, his parents, Mildred, her mother?

P1030056This particular burial place was a surprise to me.  It’s at the edge of a beach and doesn’t immediately seem connected to anyone’s home.  My guess is that this bit of land, which is at the base of a hill, sits below the family home.

P1030072This is a gorgeous place to rest.  Shaded by several kinds of flowering trees (including Lignum Vitae, the national tree of Jamaica), facing a quiet beach and the open sea.

Every time I’m in Jamaica, I think of Achin’ for Acres, think about the meaning of family land, of having your own piece of earth and being able to pass that on to the family that comes after you. 

Got land to stand on,
then you can stand up,
stand up for your rights as a woman, as a man.
Man, oh man, my choices expand.
Ain’t got me no money, but I got me some land.

4 thoughts on “Achin’ for Acres

  1. When I was in French Polynesia last year, many homes had family cemeteries in the front yard. I’d never seen that before – traveling opens your eyes to viewing the world in so many new and different ways.


  2. Molly

    You can find a part of a public park that is always going to be a public park, and a corner of it that is not too busy — or a beach, for that matter — and bury your loved one’s ashes there, or some of them. It’s illegal here in Italy, and probably frowned upon in other places, but we do lots of things that are frowned upon, don’t we? I recommend just a small amount of ashes, buried without any wrapping of any kind, rapid and very private burial, just in the ground, in a place you can visit. It is possible to put stones on the spot, if it is private enough and doesn’t have to be mowed. You can bring stones to the spot from every place you visit, places you wished your loved one had been able to see with you. You can do this even without the ashes, of course. It’s nice to choose a place that is a bit private, has a nice place to sit, and a nice view from your sitting place. You don’t have to own any land at all to do this. Yeah, “a person” could do this.


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