This week’s helping of Grits & Pieces is about cemeteries. I know, Halloween is over, but the subject is perpetual, you could say.
Many have a fascination with those places where folks get buried, whether they’re called cemeteries or graveyards. I found out awhile back that there’s a difference. Graveyards are located next to churches, while cemeteries are not. That tidbit of trivia won’t get you anywhere in life, but it might be something interesting you can sneak into a conversation sometime.
I’ve spent a lot of time in cemeteries and no, it has nothing to do with ghosts, as I don’t believe in them. I’ve been present for many funerals of family and friends, and at other times I went there just to be there. I enjoy stopping by the plots where my family is buried, especially for birthdays and other anniversaries. Some may think it’s weird that I talk to them. I know they can’t hear me, but I get some comfort for it, so it’s a worthwhile visit.
A old preacher man I knew who has been dead a good while used to refer to cemeteries as “the silent cities of the dead” because of the way the gray stones of all sizes and shapes stand in formation, like city buildings. Some folks put those little solar lights around the stones, and that adds to the image because it looks like somebody’s home with their porch lights on out there at night.
Some friends and I made a silent 8mm werewolf movie in one of our local cemeteries in the mid-1970s, with me playing the monster. That was a lot of fun, and I ended up getting killed by some farmers from down the road who blasted me with a shotgun that used a silver shotgun shell. I really should get that transferred to DVD someday so my kids and grandchildren can see how much fun we used to have.
Another time, me and two buddies posed like gargoyles on some tombstones one night, while another friend drove slowly through the cemetery with two girls in his car, pretending that he was having car trouble and could barely make it move. We attacked, and he hadn’t counted on nearly going deaf from all the screaming, and nearly being strangled to death with them hanging all over him. We were poor, but we could figure out ways to have fun. And let me go on record promising that we never did any damage.
I’ve been known to take my guitar to cemeteries and walk around, singing to this one or that one, when I run across headstones of those I knew. I try to think of a song they might enjoy and do it, as I like to think somebody might visit me someday, when I’m long gone. Again, they can’t hear me, but it makes them seem close by, and I like that, even if they’re a captive audience.
Being a lover of local history, I really enjoy learning about the pioneers of our area and then finding their graves in local cemeteries. For some reason, it always gives me a greater appreciation for them and the hardships they endured while carving a community out of Southwest Florida’s palmettos and pines.
I actually live within spitting distance of a cemetery, and to show that those dead folks buried there make good neighbors, I haven’t heard a peep out of them for the 42 years I’ve been here. And let me add that I best not ever hear one!
I’ve personally dug three resting places myself, and already know where what’s left of me will be planted someday. I know that a lot of people don’t even like to think about death and graveyards, much less talk about those kinds of subjects. I see it like anything else, in that if it’s dwelt on enough, it’s better understood and maybe even appreciated more.
I take comfort in knowing where what’s left of my earthen vehicle will be parked for good, and to be familiar with who all will be my forever neighbors, so to speak. And if you run across this column (hopefully many) years from now, come by and say hello or sing me a song. My stone will be the one that reads, “Thanks for stopping by!”