Imagine you’ve never seen a cemetery; never in real life, never in a photo. What if you never encountered a physical reminder that someday, one day, you too shall die? How would that void change what you know and understand about life and death, and about living and dying?
I love cemeteries and cannot remember ever not loving them.
I consider cemeteries to be beautiful, fascinating places whose look and feel informs us about current and historical cultures and societies. They also honour people who never made it into the history books and help us to imagine the lives of people from long ago. While they’re places of rest for the dead and places to remember for the bereaved, they’ve also provided many hours of reflection for me, the living and the unrelated.
I’m not alone in my love for cemeteries. According to Sarah Murray in her book, Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre – How we Dignify the Dead, “Pere-Lachaise in Paris, London’s Highgate Cemetery, and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington often welcome more tourists than families visiting relatives.”
In From Here to Eternity:Traveling the Word to Find the Good Death, after author Caitlin Doughty takes us on journeys to cemeteries in six different countries, she concludes that death acceptance “is the responsibility of those who have been tasked with creating physical and emotional environments where safe, open interaction with death and dead bodies is possible.”
We’re thrilled to have two such people as guests at our next Reality of Our Mortality Learning Circle on November 26 in Vancouver, Canada. Together with Catriona Hearn, President, Green Burial Society of Canada and Glen Hodges, Manager, Mountain View Cemetery, City of Vancouver, we’ll explore cemeteries in the city and their relevance and relationship to living and dying.
With love and light,
Reena (+ Michelle)
PS: Listen and watch the beautiful “Dance in the Graveyard” music video by Delta Rae here.
What about you?
Do you tend to frequent cemeteries or avoid them?
Why do you think cemeteries exist?
How do you think cemeteries help us understand life and death?
Please join the discussion at the bottom of this blog post. We’d love to hear from you.