Yesterday’s Unplanned Trip to the Cemetery

What made me stop the car was seeing this juxtaposition:

A fire hydrant.
And just behind–flowers to honor and remember the dead.

Are they not both there to “save” something?

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I’ve loved cemeteries for the last several years, finding them not spooky and macabre but peaceful and full of gentle but hopeful reminders of our finite life as human beings. Cemeteries remind me not (just) of death but of a life that is beyond our ultimate control everyday–nonetheless, it is one that is beautiful and still full of meaning and love, no matter how imperfect.

Yesterday was a very windy day and the flag at this headstone had gotten caught in itself. Nevertheless, it still flew like a sail, very beautifully.

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The wind had knocked this wreath face down, but not the story behind it nor the intended interruption of death by the presence of remembrance in life.

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Even our stone monuments to the dead crack, break, and fall when given enough time. But strangely, to me the brokenness gives a different type–a more interesting–beauty than the smoothness of the original headstones. Or it can. And no amount of breaking of tombstones will shatter a family’s memory of the past–and the largest, shiniest, newest headstone cannot ensure it.

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The flowers here have blown to one side, contrasting with the (unshown) side where they are perfectly straight in their vase. I tend to think of life like this–we plan everything perfectly and then something comes along and knocks our plans to one side.

Sometimes we find we like it better that way.

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4 responses to Yesterday’s Unplanned Trip to the Cemetery

  1. dyane says:

    Oh Melissa. I used to live right next door to Oakwood Memorial, a beautiful, old cemetery built in 1908 in Santa Cruz. It was directly across the street from the hospital, so if one passed away @ Dominican and wanted to be buried @ Oakwood, it was just a few hundred yards away. :0
    (And in another bit of irony, it was across the street from the first psych unit I’d ever admit myself into)

    Anyway, at first I was so creeped out. Then I started taking long walks over there (sometimes with my two freaky dogs if the staff weren’t around) and I found it to be such a peaceful, fascinating (i.e. the various headstone designs/epitaphs) place.

    I became pregnant with my first child, and I thought it was an amazing juxtaposition that I walked past the graves of those long dead while I grew life within me.

    There were also the fresh graves. I avoided walking near those ones because I read the local news and I knew who had died….there were young children and teens buried there and that did freak me out. I’d drive by the funerals and I saw the elaborate displays of love left for the ones taken so young.

    I appreciate what you’ve done here with the photos and your insights. (As usual!) They speak to me.

    • So glad the post spoke to you. What great stories about the cemetery you visited in Santa Cruz. So many interesting juxtapositions in your experience(s) there. I think those new graves would’ve freaked me out a bit as well…. Thanks for reading!

  2. Wes762 says:

    Interesting blog post. I certainly agree with cemetaries not being dark/spooky, but rather peaceful and calm. The section stating about how they are “hopeful reminders of our finite lives as human beings” reminds me of a line from one of my favorite songs, which states “The flowing of time will mercilessly carry us away someday” (Shirushi, LiSA, 2014).

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