Cemeteries hold no negative ambiance for me. To me, they are incredibly peaceful places, full of the essence of lives completed. As I examine epithets, I feel curiosity, no sadness, just a bit of wistfulness and nostalgia for times past.
Looking at the graves, I feel it no longer matters if the life was long or short, productive or frivolous, happy or miserable. All that is finished. What remains is not in the grave. The important aspects of those interred beneath are in the memories of the living.
The people represented by the carved words I peruse have made their mark on this world. It’s not for me to judge, but I would like to know them all, to help carry a part forward. I’d like to learn from all their mistakes and successes, feel their influence. Even a life of mistakes is valuable if others become better because of it, so I stop to read and glean what I can.
In the cemetery I visit most often, where my parents and my father’s parents are buried, is a small baby’s grave, my cousin. I was too young to remember her birth and death, so narrowly spaced, but it touches me. I brushed up against the memories of the grief my family felt many times throughout the years.
Always when I stop by this “Garden of Memories”, I check on my family resting there, but only recently did I remember little Mary Denise. I found her near my grandparents. I was amazed how, despite the short span of her life, it affected me, not in grief, but in a sweet place inside myself I call Family.
That’s why I love cemeteries. When I’m there I often, in a tangential way, feel lives I can’t even remember or never knew, and pause a few minutes to reminisce about those I loved. I always experience something I take away with me, that keeps their essence alive.