Where The Dead Folks Are
What comes to mind when you see a cemetery? What deep seeded, dark, or scary thoughts enter your brain as you glance across a field of headstones and tombs? Are they thoughts of finality, the unknown, or eminent death? Well, for most people they are. A cemetery represents the end set aside ideas of afterlife or eternal life in a place more ideal. But not for me. To me a cemetery is a place to reflect, appreciate and respect life, think of human history, and remember like the old cliche says that life really is short.
I love to wander among the graves of the dead in search of stories, history, and the feeling of my own mortality. Yes, it seems macabre, eerie, and maybe a little bit weird. But think of why we place these folks in these places. We do it so we can always remember. You see, for me cemeteries bring meaning to mortal life. They are a celebration of life. The headstones are stone cold reminders of an Earthly fate. They are reminders of how short life really is and in many cases reminders of how short life can be as it is always very sad to see a marker for someone gone way too soon.
What I get from exploring a cemetery is a sense of peace and knowledge as I read one by one the names of those who once walked the Earth living as I do, breathing as I do, and feeling as I do. Who were they? What great adventures did they have? What pain did they feel? What love did they experience? Just who were they? I don’t see a cemetery as a place to grieve. I see it as a place to appreciate the folks who make up our society of people. They are our ancestors, teachers, and family. They were who we are. To walk among these people is to bring them back if only in thought. Cemeteries are memorials that few living people visit and more people ignore. It shouldn’t be that way. We should go to our cemeteries, we should go there to celebrate life. The dead would want you to remember them and remember them often even if you didn’t know them.
And not only do I appreciate the lives of those who have fallen but I appreciate their headstones and tombs. Many of these markers are ornate, intricate, artistic, and fascinating. In many cases, a headstone actually tells the story or gives clues of who the person was like the old fisherman who’s headstone is engraved with a fish on the end of a rod and reel or the grandmother who’s headstone is engraved with the roses she cherished in life.
We don’t forget our dead but we do put them away in the crannies of our minds mostly because it hurts. We miss them, we want them back. They don’t want that. They want you to remember that they were once here as you are and lived as you do. They want you to live your life as fully as they did, planned to, or wanted to. So when I stop at a small roadside cemetery, I embrace these people and I tell them, I see you. You are gone but you are not forgotten. Every person there was somebody and that’s why I stop. Birth, life, and death. The circle of life that warrants more than a person speeding by in car trying not to notice. Cemeteries demand notice. They are not merely places to lay our dead and walk away, they are places to visit and appreciate..
No, I’m not delusional, I don’t see dead people. I just appreciate that these people existed and I refuse to just set them aside in a grassy field. So the next time you see a sign on the highway for a cemetery, don’t just look away, don’t just try not to think about it, stop. Take a few minutes and stop. Enter the gates and walk among a few of the headstones. Think about your life, think about the life they may have had, and leave a better person. If anyone is looking down on you, that person will appreciate that you took the time to visit, learn about who they were, and maybe even embrace your life a little more.