Love it or Hate it: Cemeteries

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Love itPop culture has shamelessly promoted the notion of cemeteries being spooky, and I suppose that’s justified. A graveyard is, after all, a plot of land below which rests hundreds of dead bodies, a more morbid locale than most. But cemeteries are also full of history, the only remnant of so many people’s too-short lives. They provide visiting hours for the ones you can no longer visit. They allow a space for closure, consolation, talking to someone who is dead and feeling like they can hear you.

Cemeteries are often peaceful and empty (of living souls, at least). There’s nary a crowd, tourist, blasting music or unpleasant smell. Nobody bothers you there; they’ll assume you’re visiting some dead friend or relative, lost in grief, even if you’ve only come to read or have a moment alone.

Cemeteries are beautiful, especially the elaborately carved headstones with moss blooming over them. There’s usually trees and lots of grass, but not much foot traffic, so barely any litter. I like the ancient, unkempt cemeteries most, the ones with unraked leaves and stones in haphazard lines, grown crooked through the years.

I used to take walks in a local graveyard with my mom as a kid. There were hydrangea trees that spilled white petals everywhere, and we’d collect the fallen flowers to take home. I was obsessed with one grave in particular, that of a little girl who had died at my age. Her smiling face and pigtails were carved onto the stone, and I considered her my friend.

— Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldHate itBeyond organ donation and “do not resuscitate!” I don’t have too many end-of-life wishes. The big one: I do not want my lifeless bones anywhere near a cemetery.

I understand the need for mourning and ritual when it comes to the deceased. It’s something humans have always needed and done. In fact, we’re not the only animals to bury our dead – elephants and chimpanzees have been seen doing the same (though they’re smart enough to refute cemeteries). We devote our often best real estate in town, rolling hills of tailored green to such a downer (well, besides golf).

Though I’ll take cremation over anything else, it’s not that I even mind being buried. It’s the cemetery I want my dead self to avoid. It’s the thought of spending my earthly eternity in a place of such morbidity, mourning and sadness, people weeping, moaning, dressed in black, even if it’s a place people return to to remember and celebrate life. I’d rather my body return to the earth surrounded by the living, not the dead.

So bury me under a tree or on a hillside or under the end zone at Mile High. Or let my lifelessness sink to the bottom of the ocean, devoured by the sea or blast it into space. Just don’t lower me into the grounds of a creepy-quiet, reverent and humorless cemetery.

— David Holub


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