I’ve been obsessed with cemeteries since I organized
my first funeral.
When I was a kid, one of several fishes my sisters and I kept in a freshwater aquarium died. Since we didn’t care about him much, he didn’t really even have a name. Until we found him belly-up. Then he had to have a name – for the TOMBSTONE.
Deciding on Flashy, we made a sparkly, little casket out of aluminum foil lined with a folded square of soft, pink toilet paper. With me leading the way, I was the oldest, we carried his body slowly, in procession through the living room, the kitchen, out the back door.
At the graveside, we sang swing low, sweet chaaar-ri-ah-aht! Words were said – sad, respectful ones about Flashy’s tragically short life.
We discussed the six-feet-under concept, but our mother convinced us — I believe her exact words were, “No, you will NOT dig a six foot hole by the back patio!” — that six inches would be more than enough for a creature Flashy’s size.
We buried him under the Skunk bush. That was our nickname for a rare and gorgeous species of Azalea that blooms a brilliant orange, but has the unfortunately pungent scent of skunk.
Flashy wouldn’t mind the smell. We marked his final resting place with a Popsicle-stick-cross beautified with crayon. There may have been tears, but I don’t think so. The feeling I remember most about the whole affair is glee.
Several years ago, sheer luck led me to the mountains of Nevada on a gorgeous, clear afternoon. Serendipity and a rental car brought me to Virginia City, its fabulous cowboy cemetery, and the most magical hour I’ve ever spent wandering among tombstones. There was a full solar eclipse.
Have you ever seen a solar eclipse? You can only look at them through special lenses or watch their shadows through a pinhole projector. In the cemetery that day, nature’s pinhole projectors, the leaves on the trees above the graves, cast these eclipse shadows.
Even before I realized that this rare cosmic event was happening, the Virginia City cemetery took my breath away. Spring in the mountains was just so gorgeous!
Best tombstone tourist experience ever!
Lakewood Cemetery on a cold, windy day, spitting rain. Despite everything, heavenly!
Have you ever been here? This is one of those cemeteries so packed with beauties that even with a full-color, self-guided tour brochure there’s no way to see everything in one visit.
The staff in the reception building (with restrooms!), was incredibly helpful and organized. They printed out section maps so I could find specific grave sites. Awesome!
The blustery weather definitely set a melancholy tone for the day, so next time I visit, I’ll make it in the summer and I’ll bring a picnic lunch.
Bellefontaine Cemetery is just north of St. Louis in Florissant. Missouri and totally worth a side trip if you’re headed that way.
In a previous post, I focused on statues of women in mourning at Bellefontaine. Just gorgeous.
Can you imagine visiting these two memorials when they were new and even more lifelike? I’ll come back to Bellefontaine. There are some spectacular buildings here too.
Challenging to carve something as ethereal and smokey as a soul in stone.
Laurel Hill was brimming with awesome sculptures!
What a majestic guy! Anatomically correct too. Quite the symbol of power.
Here’s a story, broken chains, open prison door, sobbing woman freed. Pretty impressive. The man memorialized abolished debtors prisons in Philly.
Emotion in the stone, that’s what it’s all about.
There’s more to see at Laurel Hills. I’ve got to go back. And I MUST have another philly cheesesteak sandwich. It’s absolutely true that nobody makes them like they do in Philadelphia!