Lessons from a Graveyard

A couple times this past year I have visited a cemetery by my house.* I don’t know anyone buried there. It just called to me one day. Its understandable if some think this is weird and creepy, I get it. But when you think about it, a graveyard is a more of a place for the living than the dead.

Most of the time when people go to a cemetery they are pre-occupied with grief, sorrow and pain. Their minds are thinking about lose and emptiness.  They are not interested in looking around, being observant or sitting still.  In the past, when I have been in graveyards I have just wanted to leave as soon as possible.

Originally, I visited this graveyard because it was solitary place. A place I could be alone, think and be introspective. Not quite a monastic retreat center, but it is a place away from the noise of my house and the city. The creepiness of a cemetery makes it a natural place to be anti-social. As a matter of fact, I havn’t seen anyone else walking around in this cemetery. At least not any one still living (just kidding). There are those who drive through. Odd. I guess they stop to visit someone. I just haven’t seen anyone sitting on a bench, reminiscing next to headstone and never anyone actually burying a loved one.

As I have sat reflecting, mediating or was walking around enjoying the solitude, I noticed a few things I thought were interesting:

  • There is green grass and leafy trees.  If cemeteries are a place to house the dead, why is the grass green and watered? Why are there shade trees?  Could it be cemeteries are not really for the dead, but a place for the living to remember and reflect on those who were once like us but are no longer?
  • Tombstones vary in size and ornateness, but the need for them is all the same. Tombstones are sign posts for the living. They don’t tell the dead where to find the living, but just the opposite. Its ironic that some of the tombstones I have read have been in use longer then the lives they mark.
  • Some grave plots are decorated. Pictures, Scriptures, flowers, pinwheels, toys, banners, balloons and wreaths are placed by loved ones. I think somehow these decorations try to salve our hurt and lose.
  • This cemetery is on a hillside facing west toward the Rocky Mountains. It provides a spectacular view for those who are their to visit the dead.
  • Benches are provided, but no one lingers.

The lesson learned here is death has a bigger impact on the living than it does the dead.  The dead have died, but the living must go on living.



*the picture above is one I took of the graveyard I visit.


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