Take a Walk Through a Graveyard. It'll Be Good for Your Health and Your Soul.
A graveyard visit in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
What is a graveyard?
A cemetery or graveyard is a place where the remains of deceased people are buried or otherwise interred. The word cemetery (from Greek κοιμητήριον, "sleeping place") implies that the land is specifically designated as a burial ground. The older term graveyard is often used interchangeably with cemetery, but primarily referred to a burial ground within a churchyard.
No-one talks back in a graveyard, yet so much is said.
My daughter decided to go to college at my Alma Mater, University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I had not been back to Hattiesburg since I graduated, and I was truly excited.
While I lived in Hattiesburg, there was a graveyard that I always wanted to visit. I never got the chance. I was always too busy. I was always training or studying or doing something, so I never got a chance to visit this place that I believe holds so much possibilities.
One day while waiting for my daughter to finish with a class, my youngest son and I decided to spend a while just walking around and looking at the graves in this old graveyard. It was an eye-opening experience for both of us. What should have been just a short trip turned into a 2 hour walk throughout the graveyard. We still did not manage to see everything, but what we did see told some stories.
I'll develop that in a minute, as I am sure many of you are asking how a graveyard could hold possibilities, except the possibility or more like a likelihood that we will end up there one day.
So many people have a natural fear of graveyards. I don't. I love them. From a young age I loved them. Graveyards are the most peaceful place where you can hang out and talk to people, and no-one talks back, yet so much is said.
You have a silent audience of departed souls to remind you that your choices matter.
I remember when I was back home in my native Cayman Islands, going to visit some family members' graves. Yes, I do that. I happened to walk by a tombstone that absolutely shocked me. It was the face of a very handsome young fellow in his military uniform, whom I had gone to school with, and a face that I never expected to see on a tombstone.
Upon doing some research and questioning, I found out that he was killed while taking his boat off his vehicle to get ready to have some fun on the ocean. Yes, it was sad, but I remember, after getting past the "too young to die" part, he really lived in his young life. He had done what he wanted to do. He lived. Yes, he may have had a lot more to achieve in his life, but in the short time that he lived on the earth, he had really lived.
Reflect on these questions.
You should not make any major decisions in life without walking around in a graveyard first.
When I was growing up, I often heard a saying which went something like this; “You should not make any major decisions in life without walking around a graveyard”. Why, you might ask? Because death is the ultimate lens with which to view life.
As an artist I am always amazed by the art that I see in the graveyard, but I also amazed by the lessons of life that death can teach us. Lessons about loss. Lessons about being in a dark place. Lessons about living the inspired life. It makes us question what we will do with the rest of our life.
So many of us operate in the area of survival mode. We have all these dreams but we wake up every morning going to a job we hate, building someone else's empire, instead of working on our own dreams and ambitions. I admit that I was one, but I loved what I was doing. It was art-related, and I was helping people, but it was not really what I was supposed to be doing. Now I am in the processing of developing an art event where my work will be the focus. As I was writing this today, I even received a message where a painting concept of mine was used for promotional poster for a movie. I have always imagined my work in this manner, but now it's happening....but more on that later.
It took the diagnosis with a chronic illness, getting really ill, having to quit my job to put me in the mode that I am capable of living my dream. It made me ask myself the questions:
- Where have I been?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
What about you? What big decisions do you have facing you at the moment?
What decisions are you making that will help you to fulfill your dream?
What's the agenda for your life that remains?
Where are you going?
Do we have an unrealized and unspoken fear of death?
Our pop culture has plenty to say about life, but very little to say about life lived in light of death. Our world is obsessed with all things “youth”. We shun the notion of death. We flee from it the way our great-grandparents blushed at the mention of sex. We justifiably speak today of past eras as times of repressed sexuality, but we fail to remember that people then were much more open about death than we are. Maybe our great-grandchildren will label us “death-repressed”. Maybe our cultural rush to lose ourselves in pleasure, to have more exciting experiences, to buy more stuff, to keep traveling is fueled by our unspoken and unrealized fear of death.
Stories in the graveyard.
Stories in the graveyard
After meandering through the tombstones, reflecting on names, dates, and inscriptions, a thought came to me: I hadn’t been tip-toeing around old bones. I’d been browsing something akin to an open-air reading room, and art gallery. Beneath my feet was an anthology of sorts, a golden treasury of life stories that stretched out over a couple of centuries, hardly a genre unrepresented. Above ground was a vast display of art doubling as the final home of their lifeless, now decaying, bodies.
This was the richest place on earth.
"The graveyards are full of indispensable men." Charles de Gaulle
People have literally died to get in. Unfortunately that is the only way to get into this place.
Graveyard: A place of great wealth
This place of endless riches is not in the Middle East, where there’s rich black gold buried deep beneath the Earth’s surface—nor is this place in South Africa where there is a plethora of diamond mines. The wealthiest place in the world is a graveyard, or cemetery, as it sometimes referred to.
Now one would ask, “For what justifiable reason is the wealthiest place in the world a cemetery?”
Simply put, in a cemetery, you fill find that there are books that were never written. There are songs that were never sung. There are ideas that were never acted upon—dreams that were long forgotten. There are lives that never got a chance to live.
If one were to die today, then what ideas and what aspirations would die with him or her?
Have you tried this?
Program yourself, or life will program you.
Recently I wrote a post that asked the questions: What would your life be like if you really lived your dream? I had been listening to one of my favorite motivational speakers, Les Brown, and a particular message about the 5 biggest regrets of the dying got my attention. In my article I asked the reader to imagine that he or she was on their death bed, and that standing around the bed were the ghosts of the dreams, the visions, the ideas that he or she failed to visualize for whatever reason. Gifts that were never used or talents that were never acted upon personified. Now imagine that you are on your death bed? How do you feel?
Are you ready to die because you have lived your dream, or do you have regrets?
My favorite Steve Jobs quote....
The world needs more dreamers who do.
I’m a proud dreamer who takes risks and lives my life in this space of passion and innovation.The journey or the path that life has taken me on has allowed me to grow with hope and faith and creativity and life....and I’m proud that I have taken this trait on and will continue reaching my own dreams. I would love for you to do the same in your own life. The world can definitely never have too many dreamers, who act upon their dreams.
Stressed out? Walk through a graveyard.
Cemeteries get a bad rap here in the United States. The only time of year we really pay attention to them is Halloween, and then, it’s to equate them with fear or evil.
Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day give cemeteries a little love, but those holidays are more about who’s in the actual graves, and not about the places themselves.
Unlike many of the world’s cultures, which celebrate or dignify death, we avoid it. So it’s no wonder that most Americans find cemeteries creepy.
I find wandering through graveyards peaceful and relaxing, a place for quiet contemplation. I enjoy the religious, spiritual, historical, and cultural aspects. One of my favorite graveyards that I visited was in Taiwan a number of years ago. You can read about the culture here.
Want to cheer yourself up? Walk through a graveyard.
An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values.
Yes, the thought of mortality does make us want to live a fulfilled life and inspires us to do things that bring joy to others which, in turns, brings joy to us.
What will you do with the time you have left?
Contemplating eternity? Walk through a graveyard.
Cemeteries force you to contemplate eternity. Every time I step into a cemetery, I ask myself: How will I be remembered – and will God be pleased with my life? Cemeteries force us to think eternally, not materially, and that’s good. Our modern-day lives are consumed too much by the mundane, the unimportant, the fleeting, the insignificant. When I’m walking through a cemetery with my son, I’m rarely thinking about that football game, that movie, that hobby. I’m thinking: What’sreally important in life? Yet too often we’re majoring on the minors, getting our lives out of order, and clueless that we’ve messed it all up. In a cemetery, we look at tombstone after tombstone and ask somberly: What do I want my engraving to say?
Want to know the meaning of life? Walk through a graveyard.
Another reason you should visit a cemetery is to reflect on the meaning of your life. I remember well the day my mother's grave was being built for burial a few days later. I remember seeing the empty spot beside her, and thinking if I would be the one to be buried in that hole. Of course, I want to be cremated, to save the expense, and to give a chance to my kids to have fun at my expense with the money they'll save by cremation.
As I walked through the graveyard, I began to think that each tomb represents a life.
We all spend our lives trying to avoid this place but death is inevitable, so the trick is to live a good life, an inspired life.
We are all born terminal.
Visiting a graveyard affords us the chance to reflect on our lives and the loved ones who helped raise us, and the lives we are living, and those lived.
We are all born terminal.
Baby's tomb in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Want to have a spiritual awakening? Walk through a graveyard.
Cemeteries lead to great spiritual discussions......especially with ourselves. In a graveyard I can sense the presence of God in a particularly strong and meaningful way. As a Christian, I know I should not be afraid to talk about death, even to children. Sometimes my kids get freaked out because I so freely talk about it......about the likelihood of me dying. They can't really grasp the idea of death. Hey they're young. Young people do not want to think about death, but they should.
Such conversations, though, always should be positive. When we’re in a cemetery, my son and I discuss death in the most stark and joyful terms, but he does get a little teary-eyed whenever he sees the tomb of a baby or a young person.
Want to learn history? Walk through a graveyard.
Walk to learn history, or learn from history? Walk through a graveyard.
Graveyards teach history. Each tombstone tells a story, even if it’s nothing more than the dates of the birth and death. How? Because each person lived through a unique moment in history. I'm sure you've seen interesting art on tombstones engraved with 18 wheelers (must have been a truck driver), a disabled child rising from a wheelchair, footballs (sports fan) and guitars (musician).
This couple lived during the time of the Civil War...
You can't take it with you.
Want to know what you can take with you when you die? Walk through a graveyard.
We are all going to die at some point. That's the reality.
When that day comes, your time is over. Your opportunities for accomplishing objectives in this world are no more.
You go into that dirt grave, to become fertilizer for grass and plants for a very long time to come (at least in the USA. Other cultures form of burial are different.) Or you may choose to be incinerated into a coarse ash that no amount of lotion can address, taking all of your unrealized dreams and desires with you to rest.
Will your dreams and aspirations be buried with you? Will you contribute assets to the cemetery or will you leave them fulfilled here on earth?
A Graveyard Visit
Want to know who can live your dreams for you? Walk through a graveyard.
No one can do it for you.
Others can help, provide influence, feedback, and direction, but NO ONE can do it for you.
It is your dash. Not someone else's.
This is a singleton mission, and your life depends on it in more ways than one.
In the end there IS only one; You.
Do it big, make it count. Add to the wealth of your final resting place in a positive way by seeing to it that your balance sheet is loaded to the hilt with your legacy, accomplishments, memories, and experiences, and all but devoid of regrets and missed opportunities.
This isn’t a call to action to be answered “some day”, it is an outright challenge to begin today, and continue for the unpredictable duration of your time here on earth.
Yes, someone can carry on your legacy, but you have to build it first.
Make it happen.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
The graveyard is full of unrealized goals, un-lived dreams and untapped-into potential.
You may have heard something to the effect of “The graveyard is full of unrealized goals, un-lived dreams and untapped-into potential”. In other words, it simply means that many people have died having not lived their lives to their absolute, fullest potential. By the same token, I’m sure that some people tried to live their dream and worked really hard at it, but unfortunately, for some reason or the other didn’t see it materialize.
Achieving great things by use of our gifts and talents oftentimes do not come easily. People who have become majorly successful in life will probably tell you that it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears, serious thoughts of wanting to give up, and episodes of utter hopelessness after seeing no way that things can possibly work out in their favor. Yet, they are now living those dreams and finally able to exhale. You may wonder what it took; how they made it and the simple answer to that is: Indomitable Persistence. Persistence in the face of difficulty; persistence in the face of opposition & ridicule; persistence in the face of hopelessness & despair; drying the tears, dusting themselves off and getting back up — and repeating that scenario over and over again.
Want to know where true equality lies? Take a walk through a graveyard.
When you walk through a graveyard you can see past all the artificial elements, the distractions, and the things that cloud our vision of what is really important in life. The rock star has played his last song. The movie star has died and her beautiful body will rot in the ground. The politician, who received the acclaim of man, is now buried six feet under the sod.
Death puts us on the same level. The wealthy and the poor; the white, black, Oriental, and Hispanic; the attractive and unattractive, both male and female—all will one day die. All will one day be buried or cremated.
What do you want on your tombstone?
Why most people die before age 25
In conclusion: Invest in yourself and your dreams.
At the end of my life, I really only want two words on my tombstone: I lived!
Do you have an idea of something you should have started but feel defeated to make the move. Please don't die with the idea. Execute it! One could waste money but surely, not a good idea. The most tragic thing one could do is to waste a good idea.
Many of the mighty buildings, churches, factories, cities, industries, products and wealth you see were the result of what was in the minds of people. All the riches you see first started with an idea in the minds of people. They were formerly dreams in people's heart, which they believed in and acted upon.
So remember: Your life has meaning and purpose. And some day it will end. The cemetery will remind you of that, but it will also give you clarity and focus. Clarity and focus are what you need to use in charting the path ahead.
- Live with intention.
- Walk to the edge.
- Listen hard.
- Practice wellness.
- Play with abandon.
- Choose with no regret.
- Appreciate your friends.
- Continue to learn.
- Do what you love.
- Live as if this is all there is.
Quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet
Adieu! Adieu! Remember me!
Farewell My Friend
It was beautiful as long as it lasted
The journey of my life.
I have no regrets whatsoever
save the pain I'll leave behind.
Those dear hearts who love and care...
And the strings pulling at the heart and soul...
The strong arms that held me up
When my own strength let me down.
At every turning of my life
I came across good friends,
Friends who stood by me,
Even when the time raced me by.
Farewell, farewell my friends
I smile and bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears for I need them not
All I need is your smile.
If you feel sad do think of me
for that's what I'll like
when you live in the hearts
of those you love, remember then
you never die.
- Gitanjali Ghei
Live full and die empty!
So I leave you with a "What if......"
What could have happened if Thomas Edison died with his idea of perfecting an incandescent lamp that could be carried by electricity?
What if the Wright brothers died without carrying out their plan to build an engine (the airplane) that would overcome the force of gravity and fly?
What if Paul the apostle died with all his epistles unwritten?
What if Michael Faraday died with his discovery of benzene and electricity?
What if Abraham Lincoln died without the great work he did to stop slave trade in America and also to bring peace and democracy to America and the entire world?
Surely, history would have been altered.
So don't contribute to the wealth of the graveyard.
Discover why you were born.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Live that dream. Invest in that dream.
Do something for your generation before you go. Don't just be part of a crowd that moves aimlessly.
© 2016 Gina Welds Hulse