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.

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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

Remembrances

Happy Homestead, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

I felt reluctant to blog about my love of graveyards this week in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Connecticut. But it’s not death that I blog about. It’s not death that I see in cemeteries. Not really. It’s peace and healing.

Genoa, Nevada

I see every grave marker as a step on a journey for both the living and the dead.

Dungeness, Washington. I love that she comes here to journal.

Grave decorations represent an outpouring of grief. There’s often such a raw sense of intimacy around the newest ones that I feel like an intruder just looking at them. And yet, they’re also a kind of invitation, grieve with me, support me.

Ashland Cemetery, St. Joseph, Missouri

 And they’re always beautiful, full of color and life, often even a sense of humor. I’ve never found anything ugly or angry left at a grave. Doesn’t that show a spirit moving out of darkness into light?

Moore Cemetery, near Liberty, Missouri

I believe that the children who died in Connecticut on Friday are already at peace.

Muddy Forks Cemetery, Kearney, Missouri

Though our hearts are breaking and it may take a very long time, the funerals that start today are their families’ first steps to finding peace too. My thoughts are with them.