I know this is a strange subject. Who goes around talking about cemeteries? Well, if you grew up in my family, it seemed visits to graveyards appeared on our schedules. As a writer of historical fiction, I find cemeteries and records as an excellent source for plots, dates, facts, and characters.
A recent conversation at my local post office started me thinking about this subject and how other people might view cemeteries. The conversation went something like this:
Post Mistress: I saw you walking this week.
Me: I’m not surprised. I love to walk around the neighborhood.
Post Mistress: But I wouldn’t do that.
Me: Oh, I don’t go at night unless I’m with my husband.
Post Mistress: I wouldn’t walk where you walk even with my husband at any time of day.
Me: Why not?
Post Mistress: The cemetery. How can you walk around it? I hate even driving around it.
Then, I understood. It wasn’t the time of day or the neighborhood or walking alone. The cemetery was the culprit and all that it symbolized in her thoughts. I wanted to give her my positive spiel about all my fun experiences associated with graveyards, for I realized she had her own opinions for a reason. So, I chuckled to myself as I left the Post Office and went for a walk around the cemetery.
My experiences with cemeteries go way back to childhood as my parents, my sisters, and I explored family plots, old cemeteries in foreign countries and domestic destinations, even catacombs in Rome and Paris. Nothing scary or Halloween-like.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here.” Luke 24:5-6
A promise of resurrection from Jesus for His followers. Not anything to fear! His promises always come true.
So, I continue my walks around the cemetery. I’m on our old cemetery’s board where I get to care for the headstones and the grounds. My parents and my faith provide a healthy relationship with cemeteries where memories, tears, prayers, and history collide…but not fear…
What are your thoughts about cemeteries?
Nice story! Very interesting to consider that something so natural to you can be shocking to someone else. I also enjoy visiting cemeteries and learning about the lives of those past. Here in new orleans there are wonderous cemeteries to view and the raised crypts can be seen even driving by. They boast names of families who built this city.
As a student I went to Nantucket and had to write a paper on the history and faith reflected in the markers, learning all about “death’s head” and “greek revival” and footstones and headstones…
and what they reflected when the words had worn away.
I watched my mother fight her brother, who was on the cemetery board in her hometown to get the soldiers’ marker on my father’s plot the first in almost 200 years, not knowing we’d lay her next to him, within a year.
Later, before I left my own hometown, I walked around the town’s historic cemetery, and, deep in the back, I saw a then recently placed large rock monument with a plaque acknowledging “the slaves of B—-”
As a pastor, and a wordsmith, I learned early on, to stroll a cemetery to learn about the parish history. And how much discord when a flood raised the diphtheria dead, scaring the whole county.
Finally, although there is space in our family plot, my spouse and I recently bought lifetime memberships in a program that will guarantee we will be buried next to or at least near each other in a gigantic Jewish cemetery on Long Island.
So cemeteries, often just outside the original town line, never entirely are out of sight. We see this historically on Harte Island, where unclaimed Covid-19 bodies in mass graves; where the remains of 9/11 and others impossibly to count died in the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the historic coal mine implosions in the Southern part of the US and China. These are acknowledged as sites of the “unknown” in many cultures, and most pay respects. Those whose remains were unburied by archaeologists and now, centuries later are being reburied as they are returned to their cultures of origin [ example: the Wynotte of Quebec] with respect and care. For that, in the long run is what cemeteries are: respected places for the honored dead.
Several things come to mind when I think of cemetaries. One was from our trip to Oxford, England years ago. My husband tripped over a broken, hidden stone in an old cemetary we were walking in. We all had a good (well, maybe not so good!) laugh. But later, back on the train the nurse wife was shown up by the loving 6 year old granddaughter as she checked out his leg and ran and got a wet paper towel to clean up the cut he had unknowingly gotten. (Gulp!)
As a child when we traveled we often played a game called barnyard poker, getting points for various animals on our side of the road. When we passed a cemetary we lost our points.
And when a couple of our kids were younger they decided that cemetaries had ‘dead air’ and were compelled to hold their breaths until we passed it completely. I have passed down the barnyard poker games to my some of my grands and have told them the story of their mom and the ‘dead air’.
The ‘loving’ granddaughter who is now almost 20, and I still comment on our trip thru the cemetary and her care for her Papa. She is heading towards becoming an RN. 🙂
I actually like visiting cemeteries. I’ve visited old ones in St. Augustine and other areas of FL, and in GA. At least you know no one there will bother you! Plus, I like reading the headstones. Some bare sad tales. I know the people aren’t there; however, it’s a way to show respect to our loved ones, to place flowers on their graves, and to show that though they are gone, they aren’t forgotten.
I live down the lane from our family cemetery. I like reading names and dates on the headstones.
Cemeteries are very interesting. I love reading the headstones.
My property line is with a family cemetery. I figure I have a front row seat when the dead in Christ rise first. It’s sad they don’t take care of it and it is falling into ruin. We offered to mow it and was told no. No one visits it. How sad.