20 May 2005


I have loved cemeteries for a long time. My husband has gotten used to stopping at stray little cemeteries when we stumble on them, and the boys always ask to stop when we see one, so when we saw a road named "Burton Cemetery Road," we had to stop. It wasn't a particularly old cemetery, but it was lovely and well kept with interesting headstones. There were also a few owls there. I've rarely seen an owl, and the boys thought it was great.

When I started to learn more about Old Garden Roses, I read that many old roses have been found growing in cemeteries, especially in warmer states than I've ever lived in. There are even people who go around collecting specimens of old roses (see this site for "rose-rustling" etiquette).

We visit a number of old cemeteries every Memorial Day and I love to see all the flowers (although there is a preponderance of potted mums the last few years- they may be cheap, but it's getting a bit old), but my favorite thing to is see what has been planted in the cemetery. You have to go to the old ones to see anything, because more modern cemeteries are far too well-groomed to allow anything like a scraggly rose bush on their grounds. One cemetery has beautiful peonies planted next to my great-great-great grandparents tombstone and they are sometimes blooming at Memorial Day (usually they're not quite ready though).

I also liked the cemeteries in the Middle East. They are more distinctive than ours, and in many ways quite as peaceful. The City of the Dead, a huge cemetery in Cairo, has thousands of homeless people living in it since many of the tombs can easily house living people also. But my favorite tomb, really, a mausoleum, is Qayt Bay.

I've always said that I'd love to live in an old church next to a cemetery.

(And I am surprised to announce that the "recover post" thing from Blogger works!)


  1. I think that the saddest thing about a cemetary is the lost stories. All these people lived lives, and how many of them have their stories preserved?


  2. I enjoy cemeteries, as well. I love to wander and look at the stones and ponder the stories they tell. Incomplete, yes, Mark, but stories, nevertheless.

    The cemetery here in our town is large and beautiful, with huge old trees all over. My son and I used to live nearby when he was little and we used to ride bikes and take walks there. Now he is buried there.

    I remember when I was a young mother, visiting a cemetery with my grandmother and her sister, they were looking at the stones and proclaiming, "oh, there is so and so, remember her?" I thought it was odd, then, but now I completely understand.

    For me, the saddest thing about our cemetery are "the new people in the neighborhood." So many of our friends and neighbors have lost loved ones in the 13 years since my son died, many young ones, also.

    In another way, though, it bonds me with them. People that perhaps I've had difficulties with or been annoyed with, or they me, become my brothers and sisters as I know we share a mutual anguish.

    Oh, something else, in this local cemetery, are buried 5 generations of my relatives. I take care of their graves. That feeds my soul, as well. One is a young girl who died in the 1800's, the child of my great-great grandmother. I need that sense of history and heritage.

  3. Mark, I agree about the lost stories. You always hear people say that no one is really gone when they're dead if someone remembers them, but when I go into an old cemetery, I see a lot of forgotten people. I think that's one reason why I love family history- there are so many stories. And it's been fun to find our ancestors graves so they don't look so forgotten on Memorial Day.

    annegb, thanks. We don't live quite as far from all of my ancestors graves right now and I've very much enjoyed that. It was nice to move to eastern Idaho because I did feel a connection because of my ancestors. (But I only have four generations here.)

  4. I love to go to cemetaries and make up stories about the people listed. I find most of my creative writing is done sitting in these hallowed places. Not that I write them down or anything... but it is a good exercise.

  5. You have once again inspired me! In my limited travels I try to seek out a cemetary in the town. Recently we were down in New Orleans... Yowsa! Talk about cemetaries. I think I will blog about my experiences there tomorrow! Thanks for a great post!