I have met one other person in my life who shares the same little fascination that I do. Well, I think she considered hers an “obsession” but let it be known that my intrigue with this subject is just a fascination. To some of you who might read my blog regularly this might not come as too much of a surprise as I have subtly alluded to it a couple times before (here and here), but many others might find this interest of mine a little weird, and yes, maybe a little twisted.
For at least 20 years of my life, I have had a fascination with cemeteries. It started when my grandma took me on annual Memorial Day trips to Mountainview Cemetery in Walla Walla, Washington, to visit our departed relatives and past parish priests. As time went on and I visited more cemeteries my level of interest grew and grew.
The first reason why I appreciate cemeteries so much is just because of the history. I am a major history buff and I love it even more when I can experience it hands on. Going to a graveyard and having the opportunity to walk from tombstone to tombstone and see the dates, inscriptions, and pictures really paints a vivid historical picture in my head. When I went to Boston last month, I got to view grave stones that were 300+ years old! The language and symbols depicted on the monuments were completely different than today and it was just pretty cool. Getting to reach out and touch something over three centuries old seemed to teleport me back to the revolutionary years in our country. But even modern cemeteries have this historical element. I like nothing more than to visit a cemetery and find a tombstone of someone who was born in 1898 and died in 2001. Just looking at “1898-2001” seems almost surreal like. Thinking about everything that person lived through in three different centuries always gets my head spinning.
This is probably my “weird” reason for liking cemeteries so much but I can’t get over the somewhat overwhelming feeling of walking above the ground where thousands of people have been laid to rest. Don’t you see where I am coming from with my “overwhelming feeling” talk? To think that I get to trot six feet above where people are resting in their coffins rattles my mind a little bit. I can’t help but think what it would look like if my eyes could see through the grass and dirt as I scanned the whole grounds. Thousands of different caskets of different colors, different designs, different eras, and different shapes all lined up in close quarters. Then to think about the remains of the people in those coffins combined with what clothes they were buried in and what jewelry/rings/pictures/trinkets they took with them always makes me just really reflect on that particular earth that I am walking on. When I think about everything that lies underneath my feet when I stroll through a cemetery I never need a reminder to be on my best behavior.
Thirdly, I like graveyards because they are just so peaceful and reflective. They are sad too, but I think that adds to the reflective part. I can go to a cemetery and my thoughts are just so much clearer and I become so much more connected to everything around me. I definitely feel the energy of the dead underneath my feet and it just really helps me to appreciate life and to not take it for granted. I will never forget the feeling that engulfed my whole body when I set foot at Arlington National Cemetery. I was definitely not prepared for the multitude of white tombstones and solemn people walking around. When I finally gathered myself, I just felt so lucky and so spoiled that I never wanted to waste another second of my life again.
Despite never feeling shy to visit a random cemetery for my own historical and reflective purposes, I also like to visit the ones where I have loved ones buried. To have a location to visit the deceased who loved us so much is a great blessing, one that I will definitely take time to think about this Memorial Weekend. Don’t Blink.