Cemeteries stir questions, bring memoriesPublished 10:01am Monday, June 24, 2013
Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf
I have cemeteries on my mind this week. It could be because cemeteries are a prominent feature in my book or because I happened to pass a rural cemetery on my way to a service call. I started wondering how many old cemeteries were buried in fields, possibly none and possibly some. After all, I have no idea where any of my ancestors before my grandmother and grandfather on my father’s side are resting.
I was taught at a young age to be respectful of a cemetery and those buried there. My parents taught me never to walk on a grave. I wonder how many young people today have been taught that. Maybe that little gesture of respect no longer applies.
When I was a teenager the cemetery was a good place to go at night to tell ghost stories. Our imaginations were wild and of course ghostly things happened.
Many people visit a cemetery for the history. There are cemetery tours that tour Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Ga., Cities of The Dead in New Orleans, La., to name a few. Many of these cemeteries are very old with very unique statues and gravestones. These cemeteries preserve the history and memory of those people that have gone before us. Many inscriptions on the tombstone tell a story of the person that lies buried in those hallowed grounds. Tombstones in any cemetery tell a story of those that reside in that grave.
Many people visit a cemetery where someone they love is buried because it gives them peace, it gives them a place to go to talk and grieve for someone they loved.
While I was wondering about all those that have possibly been turned under by plows, I wondered if my children needed a spot to visit when I am gone.
I have been told that in Europe death is treated differently and if a person is not someone of stature, a burial place and bones are not quite as reverent. Different cultures have different traditions when someone dies.
I must admit I don’t visit cemeteries very often. I do the usual Memorial Day plants or have someone else do them. I visit because I feel guilty because my mom told me it was something I needed to do. However, I don’t feel much of a connection to the graves where my family is buried except as a fact-finding tour. Right or wrong that seems to be the way it is with me.
I don’t feel the need for closeness by visiting someone’s grave. I seem to get that from a quiet place or somewhere that reminds me of the spirit of the person. For instance, a garden was my mom’s favorite place, and I feel her spirit with me when I am in a garden. My dad, loved singing and music and his old farm, and I feel close to him when an old song that he used to sing reaches my ears. I feel their spirit soaring around me every single day, and I feel I can talk to them no matter where I am.
I do have to tell you that burying my pets was also a part of my childhood and that pet burial, though difficult and met with a lot of tears, made things better. I still do look with fondness on the land where my pets are buried even though the land no longer belongs to us.
I finally buried the ashes of my daughter’s cat Alexis under my bird feeder by the window. I felt her spirit would love the idea of finally being nearer the birds after watching them for 16 years from the window. It is a strange thing, since I have done that I no longer have any birds gracing my feeders by the window. Is Alexis’ spirit chasing them away? Am I superstitious? Perhaps it comes out of those years of telling ghost stories in grave yards.
My dilemma is still there. Do my kids want a place to visit after I am gone? If they say no now will they regret it when they are older and have no tombstone to mark the fact that I lived? Or should my ashes soar and move to the wind? Would that comfort them?
Then there are the other questions? Are my relatives plowed under in some field and because of it forgotten? Could that happen to all of us thousands of years down the road? Could there really be ghosts in the grave yard like we imagined in our youth, or is that just a myth and do all the spirits go back to haunt the houses they lived in? After all there must be some truth to the haunted house stories. My final question is this: Is Alexis spirit chasing birds away from my feeders?
Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at email@example.com.