I think I developed my unique relationship with grave yards from a young age. I remember my mother telling me, “there is nothing to be afraid of, nobody lives there.” So all of the normal “scary” connotations didn’t apply.
At one point, I lived next to a medium-sized, neglected city grave yard; I thought it was beautiful. My siblings and I used to walk through reading the tomb stones and leaving wild flowers here and there. There was the stump of a huge tree that looked like a throne and mushrooms that grew in fairy rings. We were mindful not to step over the graves, the one piece of reverence we retained. I was too young to understand the sadness that can accompany such a place. I only wondered who these people had been and why no one cared about their stones any more, because some of them were very damaged.
Later in college I intentionally sought out grave yards to study in. Now I know that might seem disrespectful or very odd to some but I didn’t see them that way. In Tallahassee Fl there are several wonderful grave yards right near Florida State’s campus. In a town with two large universities it could be hard to find a quiet, un-crowded place.
One of the two grave yards was large, old and had wonderful trees that created pools of shade. The other was a small cemetery attached to a church, very intimate with beautiful flowering bushes. To put your mind at ease, I only went there to study or take photographs. I would never dream of playing Frisbee , walk a dog or in any way disturb mourners who might be present.
But there was something about the quiet, nature and history that I found appealing. I know now that I have a great longing in me for roots, seeing as I don’t have many of the conventional kind. I’m not from one town, or place. I have been far removed from family most of my life, even now I live the furthest from my nucleus group. Seeing generations together, “family” plots was poignant and eye-opening.
I was fascinated by the length of people’s lives, how they chose to commemorate each other and the point to markers that remain long after the families themselves have gone. I think that idea of remaining, even in name, was comforting to me.
I don’t frequent grave yards as often now. Life has a way of reminding you of somethings true purpose. I have attended few burials in my time but each leaves a lasting impression. I will never forget the sound of the rifles at my grandfather’s funeral, or the loss I felt at not being able to go to my grandmother’s. These things change you in ways you don’t expect.
Now when I walk through a grave yard, I quietly say a prayer for those left behind and wish all those remembered a gentle sleep.