I love cemeteries. Not in a spooky sort of way, but instead I find them a fascinating place. As you walk the grounds of a cemetery, there are hundreds of people beneath your feet. These people used to be mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, husbands, wives, and friends. They each have a story of their own to tell, and many of their stories have been whisked away by the cruelty of time.
When I go to a cemetery, I’m pretty solemn. I take time to look and pay my respects to as many people as I can. Why? For they have embarked upon a journey that I am so nervous about; death. As we know, death is imminent. It’s going to happen to all of us, but we don’t know when or how it will come to us. Perhaps it will be a car accident, or a bout with a serious illness. Who knows?
Death not only makes me uneasy, but becoming anonymous in time also makes me nervous. I’m already well aware of how insignificant I am in comparison to this vast universe, but I still want my story to be known after I’m gone. I’m sure the people interred and buried in the cemeteries probably had similar thoughts while they were alive. And yet, here they are, with their names on headstones with few words to tell their story.
Different cultures view cemeteries in their own way, and I find it beautiful. In some places, you’ll find people having picnics and letting their kids play among the headstones. In other places, you’ll find people in mourning and solemn. Both are okay.
One of my favorite places in San Diego was Pioneer Park. There, you’ll see a clump of headstones in the back corner of the park, along with some suspicious sinkholes throughout the lawn. In classic “Poltergeist” dramatics, they moved the headstones but not the bodies. In Old Town San Diego, the El Campo Santo Cemetery is one of the oldest in the city, and it was shrunken down when the road was developed. This meant they paved over the bodies. All that is left to mark where the bodies lie are spikes in the pavement and sidewalk.
So where does that put us in the timeline of the human race? Are we destined to be remembered for the first 50-100 years of our life, and then doomed to be paved over with a road above us with a simple spike to mark our location, or even have our tombstones moved and our final resting place turned into a park. But by the time that happens, our immediate family and even a generation or two of descendants might not even care. We will probably stop caring at the moment of our last breath because, hey, we’re dead. If consciousness doesn’t survive, then that’s it. We’re just a body. If our consciousness survives and we indeed have an afterlife, will this bother us?
After moving to Raleigh, NC and having southern cemeteries more accessible to me, I found a world of difference in how this part of the United States deals with death. For example, Oakwood Cemetery is massive. Then there is City Cemetery and Mount Hope Cemetery, all created to help deal with the growing numbers of bodies, and to give people a final resting place who weren’t treated well or respected in life. The design is quite beautiful and dramatic, and something I hadn’t encountered in the cemeteries in California where your final resting place might be a sacrifice to urban development.
As a paranormal investigator, I find cemeteries to be really quiet, and not at all very haunted. If you were a ghost, would you want to stick around your final resting place, or would you want to go out and explore the world, maybe even scare the bejesus out of a few people? When I take people on tours, I try to uphold cemetery etiquette as best I can and keep everything as respectful as one can be. At the end of the day, we still have to respect people regardless of whether they are alive or dead. It means being discreet if you want to try spirit communication, not messing with the tombs or headstones, moving flowers, screaming, yelling, drinking, debauchery, etc.
Whatever adventure lies ahead of us after our time of living has completed, I hope it’s as peaceful as cemeteries make it seem.