A dreaded sunny day, so I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates. Keats and Yates are on your side. While Wilde is on my side. So we go inside and we gravely read the stones. All those people, all those lives, WHERE ARE THEY NOW? With loves and hates and passions just like mine. They born and then they lived and then they died. Seems so unfair, I want to cry.
These words are from a singer I’ve had a bromance over for years. Decades, really. He wrote them in a fit of angst and moroseness. But I’ll forgive him that because the intent was pure. He was drawn to the alluring and yet repulsiveness of the cemetery. It’s unerring aim to draw all men into its bosom. No matter the graves condition or lonely appearance it will one day have us all.
So the way to go is to embrace it. To feel what our preceding force of the deceased have no way to feel; curiosity. He bemoaned the fact that at some point, no matter the prowess or prestige. The meekness or malaise. One day we all will taste death and swallow it bitter or sweet. His observations of common emotion and feeling is oddly comforting and yet saddening. We share loves, hates, passions, and yet the finality of the grave claims us all. So sad. Or is it?
I’ve traveled in many places and one thing I’ve always found in them is a cemetery. Some are beautiful and well tended. Others are historical and well guarded. Still others are old and decrepit missing a sexton of any worth. But it is the oldest and least crept through cemeteries that I love.
But how, you may ask, can a cemetery possibly be someplace in which the living would find any appeal of draw?
I’ve always seen these rolling hills, sparsely treed aisles, iron gated places of peaceful rest to be grand and wonderful. There’s no better place I know to see how a town cared for its own and the history of a people and the importance or lack of reverence to the dearly loved and now departed.
I see stories of folk who had children that died far too young. Perhaps even before a proper name was given. How the gentleman was a warrior who fell due to a well aimed bullet or an ill timed heart attack. Or how the children of a beloved mother and patriarch in the family saw themselves as owing due fealty to them even in their own passing. How much it mattered that even in death they remain together as family. How family was still tight knit and would indeed spend eternity together.
Then. I see plots that reveal the far flung nature of family today. Husband and wife but no children near. Perhaps buried in another row? Or another town? Another state? Another time zone? Country? Solitary. These cemeteries tell me that this one was wealthy and chose to spend his or her money on a monument that belied their living importance. But today, I don’t know who they are. Or what they did to warrant such large obelisks of marble or granite or some other stone of long lived character. I only know they thought highly of themselves. Or some altruistic donor felt that way and gave until it hurt to see to it that their pain was large enough to approve such an edifice.
Or the pauper who had little more than a sandstone marker, worn with rain, air, time, teenagers, or historians seeking a chalk rubbing… Unreadable. All those lovers all those lives. Where are they now?