Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cemetery perceptions

My first knowledge of a cemetery was the local non-denominational cemetery in my hometown. Other children had family members buried there, but no members of my family were. All of my deceased relatives were buried “somewhere else”. We were newcomers as my father and grandfather had purchased a farm outside of town before my parents were married. This was before World War II. Decoration Day, it was not called Memorial Day, was when graves were cleaned up and decorated. This was a farming community and headstones, while upright from the ground, were not large. It was always well mowed and the surrounding fence was always pure white.
When I moved to Cincinnati, I was amazed at the expanse and beauty of Spring Grove Cemetery. This was before the “new” chapel and funeral home were built. The trees, the flowering beds, the extensive drives, the mausoleums, the monuments were, and still are, awe-inspiring. Yes, your loved one may be gone and is now buried here, but burial in such beautiful, peaceful surrounding can be a lovely way to show your love and respect.
I do like to visit cemeteries when we travel. Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky is a favorite. It feels so old-south to me. The plantings and graves are close together. Many sections have been filled for years, so they have grown together in a way that they seem to stand for eternity.
As an adult, I have come to expect certain things related to where the dead are interred. I expect graveyards to be beside the church to which they are associated. Cemeteries should have trees and plants that make it a pleasant place to visit. Memorial gardens tend to be newer establishments with a young landscape. Monuments and headstones are a history lesson waiting to be deciphered. And, all places of burial should be well cared for. I find it very sad to see overgrown, neglected burial grounds. I feel that it is a responsibility of the living. But for they that have gone before, we, the living, would not be here.

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