Cemeteries have always fascinated me. Aside from glow-in-the-dark headstones, I don’t find them creepy at all. I haven’t visited a churchyard at night since my irresponsible youth when I may or may not have participated in a raucous game of All Hallows Flashlight Tag. Alas, the only spirits dashing between markers were fueled by Boone’s Farm and the utter infallibility of late adolescence.
In the olden days, more headstones told stories. At times cautionary and at other times poignant, wisdom was etched and only weathered away by the monotony of the seasons. This was before the days of laser-printed scenic markers depicting Meemaw’s affinity for Thomas Kinkaid or a clear resin inset photocopied out of the church directory of Uncle Jimmy Ray. This was before that austere symmetry of those burial parks marked only by identical plaques lying flush to the ground.
I prefer a cemetery that features upright stones, a cemetery with some age on it. You can learn a lot about folks when you look at how they arrange their departed. Older graveyards tend to showcase variety. As much as people like to tout that the dimensions of a grave are the same for everyone, cemeteries are far from being equalizers. They reflect the foibles of this life just as much as they reflect faith in the life to come. They have familial, political, and socioeconomic divisions plotted just as visibly as the sprays of fake flowers festooning the stones.
If you listen closely, these cemeteries and their inhabitants have stories to share. These stories perpetuate as long as those of us among the living continue to explore hallowed ground. So, go visit a graveyard. Whether you know any of those at rest or not, you’ll find a legacy of solace, quietude, and even humor. You might even discover some secrets to life.