Problem: A loved one has gone and died on you. All the usual offices have been performed, and the mortal remains have been laid to rest. But, for whatever reason, there's no headstone yet. You want the grave marked, and fast!
Solution: Some deckboard fished out of a skip, fashioned into a cross, and tricked out with a strip of tile for the inscription.
Step 1: First Make Your Cross
The ways to mark a grave may be limitless. But in a traditional Church of England graveyard, the best bet is a wooden cross. It is a marker hallowed by time and association, and as such is unlikely to cause remark - let alone offence. If you rock up with a homebrew non-traditional marker, you can expect to run into trouble. I had only a few hours notice that a marker was required, so I used what I had to hand - some deckboard offcuts fished out of a skip, quite by chance the night before. The ubiquitous grooved wooden board is a fair choice because it's easy to work and comes impregnated with preservative. (On the other hand, it does look like deckboard.) I just cut out a rough rebate for the cross joint, screwed it together and cut the base to a point. A conventional headstone has been ordered but delivery has been long delayed. so my cross is only a temporary marker. If i was making a permanent marker, I would obviously go about things in a rather different manner.
Step 2: The Inscription
You can't really write directly on deckboard with a felt tip pen. There are all those grooves for a start. What is wanted is something waterproof and durable. Casting about me, I opted to use an offcut of ceramic tile as the ground for the inscription. I put it on the cross, traced round it, and chiseled out a suitable rebate for it to sit in. Then it was simply glued in place using a tube of 'grabs-like-nails' I had to hand.
The idea was to paint the inscription with enamel paint, and varnish over. But can you find enamel paint when you need at short notice? No.
The shot below just shows the tile with a makeshift marker pen inscription.
Step 3: Now Stake Your Grave
In police jargon, this would be termed 'going equipped'. And what a sly pleasure it is to creep through a lonely churchyard clutching a lump hammer and a large sharpened stake.. Sadly, there were no witnesses to raise an eyebrow at our antics. But the comedy potential was there.
Step 4: RIP
Hammer the stake home, and as long as you've got the right grave, all will be well.
When my mother died (some years ago), I thought of trying to make the headstone myself. But I lacked confidence. Never having done such a thing before, I faltered. And just as importantly there were the wishes of my siblings and other relatives to take into consideration. It would have required a lot of negotiation and reassuring and compromise. A headstone is for everyone who loved and wants to remember - not just for me. Yet I regret a missed opportunity. Graveyards, in England at any rate, are astonishingly dull and conformist places. I like headstones with a photograph of the deceased, and spouse. Graves with ornaments carrying stanzas of poetry or rhyme. I like statues and colour and animal sculptures. When I go I want someone to make something individual to mark me out. So I was delighted to find a grave nearby marked out with solar-powered night lights - the lovely lady that I made the cross for would have liked them too. And I was surprised and cheered to find that several newer neighbouring graves had home-made wooden crosses to mark them too. My wooden cross will soon be replaced by a conventional headstone. But I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to do this, and if there's a next time, I'll feel rather more confident.
In conclusion - this cross is partly an expression of my regret that I allowed my mother to have a standard gravestone like any other. It has given me a warm glow to be able to do something personal for a lady that I liked. And I urge, with feeling, anyone who feels so inclined to go for it too. Be sensitive, but be positive. Just because everyone else gets a lump of mass produced granite is no reason your loved one should too. Do it yourself, and make remembrance more rememorable. It would enbiggen us all.