My First Funeral

 I’ve been obsessed with cemeteries since I organized

my first funeral.Pregnant guppy

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.English: Azalea 'Hinodegiri' in full flower in...

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.

Goat Bluff Cemetery, Hot Springs, Arkansas

The ride down a long, rough gravel road is worth it to get to this one.

The drive down a long, rough gravel road was worth it to get to this one.

I featured this little cemetery near Hot Springs, Arkansas last month just because I loved the name.

Hand-piled rock wall.

Hand-piled rock wall.

I didn’t find any clues there as to how it got its name, but I did find grave sites that were just as intriguing.

Gone but definitely not forgotten.

The graves at Goat Bluff said as much about the community of people left behind as they did about those they memorialize.

Grave sites like this speak volumes.

Can’t you just imagine the funeral services held in this shelter?

I think it still gets used, don't you?

I think it still gets used, don’t you?

Funeral service shelter

Funerary Urns as Fine Art in North Carolina

Urn Art and Garden Faire at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina

Urn Art and Garden Faire at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina

Okay, who wouldn’t want to spend eternity in a “Party Jar?” That’s what artist Julie Moore titled her whimsically woven cremation urn in Oakwood Cemetery’s juried art urn competition in April. There were ninety entries, everything from elegantly traditional wood carvings to uniquely personal mosaics.

Oakwood livened up the show with Civil War reenactors, cemetery tours and food trucks. And a little weather couldn’t keep the taphophiles down! Despite heavy rain, hundreds turned out.

Personally, I think the rain made this beautiful, old cemetery even more dramatic.

Oakwood, Raleigh, North Carolina

I went home fairly soggy, but loved every minute of it.

Lovely grouping

I’d never seen a marker adorned like this one.  Does anyone know who draped this particular soldier’s tombstone and why?

Civil War Tombstone

Rocks of Ages

Rolla, Missouri

Sure, there’s a lot of stone in cemeteries, but there aren’t a lot of rocks. They always grab my attention when I see them. This one in Rolla, Missouri was about the size of a Smart Car.

Ashland Cemetery, St. Joseph, Missouri

They can’t help but be striking, some for the sheer size of them.

How do you choose a boulder for your loved one? Is there a store? Is it a rock from the deceased’s favorite mountainside…a beloved picnic spot? Once you’ve picked one out, how in the world do you transport it?

Genoa, Nevada

Sometimes the natural beauty of the stone makes it pretty obvious why someone chose it.

Dungeness, Washington

And I like the functionality of this boulder in Dungeness. Two people’s remains are encased there. I’ve seen this type of burial from Washington to Florida. Sometimes whole families will be entombed in the same stone. I bet it’s a greener way to go.

City Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee

Sometimes you just know there has to be a story.

Are natural stone memorials a common sight in your part of the world?