Humor and grief collide as my husband and I discuss burial plans

Laughing at the absurdity of the hardest parts of life with ALS

Kristin Neva avatar

by Kristin Neva |

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A couple of weeks ago, I lined up a daytime caregiver for my husband, Todd, so I could take a day trip with our 14-year-old son to ski and snowboard. During the two-hour car ride, he introduced me to the “Bellied Up” podcast, a call-in advice show with comedians Charlie Berens and Myles, the You Betcha Guy. They invite callers to belly up to the bar and share their situation, and then the guys dispense advice with thick Midwestern accents. It’s mostly silly banter, and I’ve since listened to a few older episodes looking for a laugh.

In one episode, a man called in for advice because his girlfriend was annoyed that he was working too much during maple syrup season. “I’m a funeral director by day, and then maple syrup producer by night, pretty much.”

“Oh, you’re a funeral director,” Charlie said.

“Let’s hold on with that,” Myles interrupted. “We’re going to dive into that in a little bit here.”

I smiled, anticipating the humor that was sure to come.

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Questions for the living

Death is frequently on my mind because Todd has had ALS for more than 13 years. Living with ALS is no joke, but both Todd and I have found comfort when humor and grief collide. We often laugh at the absurdity of the hardest parts of life.

After fleshing out the maple syrup situation, Myles asked the funeral director a question for the living: “When is too early to start looking at a plot in a cemetery? Do you have any advice on that? Should we be looking now to find some prime real estate, or can I wait a little later?”

“There’re two things that you’ll never escape,” he replied. “Death and taxes. So my piece of advice is, if you’re thinking about being buried in a cemetery, buy your plot now. That way it’s cheaper in the long run because you can prepay everything, all set ready to go right now, not pay a single penny more when your time comes, and it’s gonna be a lot cheaper now than it will be in the future.”

I’ve considered various burial sites in our area, such as a beautiful cemetery where green burial is an option. But in the green burial section, there are no headstones. While I’m drawn to the idea of my body becoming earth and providing nutrients for plants to grow, I’d also like to have a specific spot marked for my kids to visit, more than just a path that diverges into the woods to a pretty glade.

Every Memorial Day, the kids and I visit Lakeside Cemetery in Hancock, Michigan, where my dad is buried, as well as his parents, both sets of his grandparents, one of his sisters, and his aunt and uncle, who were like surrogate grandparents to me. That’s where I want Todd and me to be buried, but I hadn’t considered buying a plot now.

While it’s unlikely Todd will survive for many more years with ALS, I’m only in my mid-40s. But if plots aren’t getting any cheaper, perhaps Todd and I should buy a plot for both of us now and nail things down.

I posed the question to Todd: “Should we be buried in the old section of the cemetery where my great-grandparents and my aunt are buried? There are trees there, and it’d be nice to have shade when I visit. Or should we be buried near my dad on the other side of the cemetery?”

“Will your mom be buried next to him?”

“Yes.” Her name is already on the headstone.

“That’s where we should be, too,” Todd said. “But if you get remarried, you could end up being married to him for longer than you were married to me. You could be living in Florida, and would you really want to have your body brought all the way back here?”

“I could be cremated,” I said, “and if I remarry, I wouldn’t have kids with him. I’d want to be buried where our kids would visit both of us.”

“What do you think of buttercups and daisies on the headstone?” I asked because I like wildflowers.

“I love buttercups,” Todd said, “because that’s you.” Buttercup has long been his term of affection for me. “But I want a cross.”

We’re going to design a cross with buttercups.

“Should we get the headstone made now and store it?” I asked. “We could put it in the garage — or in our living room.”

“I think if we buy a plot, we can put it at the cemetery and add the dates of death later.”

“And then we can visit our plot together,” I enthused.

“That would be romantic,” Todd said.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Kristine Qualls avatar

Kristine Qualls

I am the caregiver, and, at this point, kind of run the show on the home front, and am beginning to figure things out relative to end of life. This piece (and I enjoy all your pieces, you two are the ages of my children) was priceless. I shared it with my husband, who's sense of humor has not diminished, but he doesn't usually engage much. I got a good, sweet laugh from him!

Cindy Cox avatar

Cindy Cox

Wow, I so enjoy Kristen's column's each month and this one really resonated with me and my husband Michael who was diagnosed with ALS 4.5 years ago! We confess that humor keeps us laughing and communicating daily! Laughter keeps the the tears away at times! Your column made us both giggle at going to the cemetery to look at your plot as being romantic! LOL! It also reminded me that I hadn't asked Michael what he wanted to do with his ashes, once he's gone. Thanks for the conversation starter! It also led me to make him promise that he won't "scare" me after he's gone, no ghost stuff allowed....which he laughed and promised not to!

Bianca avatar


Pretty much the first thing we did, once my husband was diagnosed with MND was to buy burial plots for us both. I wanted him to participate in the decision. It's in the same cemetery that my grandparents are in (and I think my parents have arranged to be buried there too.) My son and I go to visit my grandparents several times a year, and we go and visit the spot where my husband and I will be, in order to normalise when the time will come to visit him after he dies. It's a lovely peaceful spot, and we always pack a picnic and bring the dog.

Lorene Cox avatar

Lorene Cox

It took 2 1/2 months and four hospitals to find out what was going on with my Bill…My husband and I “talked “ a lot about burial and such. He told me one day he wanted to be cremated because he didn’t want to painted up like a Barbie doll… he also had a beautiful idea… he wanted to be cremated and put in a big container and when it’s my time, i would be cremated and put in the same container and we would be together again…
I have some good stories… I was his caretaker for the two and half years he fought this disease…
Here’s one… A few years before his diagnosis he had knee surgery.,, while resting, my sister sent him a care package… in that care package was a belll… he would just ring that bell whenever he needed anything instead of hollering… well… two days after he got it, I threw it in the trash…. When he was diagnosed I apologized to him and told him I should have kept that bell… he writes on paper … in the bedroom… nightstand… top drawer on the left side… way in the back… I didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me so I go and look… that damn bell was there!!! lol
I asked the people to put it in the container… I don’t know what I was thinking of… it will be in the middle again!!! Lol


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