This weekend was the first beautiful spring day we have had in the frigid northeast United States, so I took my dog for a long walk. I took her to a very large, old victorian cemetary that are common in older cities. It was a beautiful walk. And It got me thinking. . .
I love old cemetaries. They were designed for the living to enjoy as parks. (They were very morbid in the late 1800's and early 1900's -- they loved to romantizize death -- and their graveyards show it) It is interesting to read the old tombstones, the crypts, the statutes -- it is a myriad of monuments to the dead.
There are lessons to be learned here. Some monuments are large and grandiose in scale. This person was SOMEBODY when they were alive. They had money, influence power. In 1886 they were da bomb! But now, not so much. The monuments, while still impressive shows years on neglect. It looks like no one has taken care of this gravesite for years. My dog and I the first visitors in quite a while.
Across the way is a large crypt that looks like a mini-cathedral. It must have cost the deceased a fortune to build it. Looks like they might have even had stained glass imported from Europe to grace the windows. Hard to tell because most of the glass has been broken and replaced with steel sheeting. Trash had blown into the crypt through a small opening. I am sure that the family laid to rest here were leaders in industry or influential politically. Now their crypt is a recepticle for Burger King wrappers. It is strange. Huge statutes made and designed to honor men and women who, in 1890, people thought history would never forget -- yet I don't know who these people are and no one else does either.
The newer part of the cemetary is less grandiose -- but much more heartwarming. The tombstones, (I call them tombstones now, not monumnents like in the old section) are small, most generic, but they too tell a story. Here lie the World War Two and Vietnam veterans, with their small flags and VFW markers, the teen who was killed in some accident has a bat and baseball glove engraved in the stone, a small child has a teddy bear and an angel. Someone, who was burried recently has flowers, pictures, candles and poems around a temporary marker (the stone isn't made yet). One hundred years from now, no one will be visiting these grave either.
Everyone burried here lived and breathed. Had good days and bad. When things went wrong for them, they probably thought the world would stop turning. When they did something important they thought it would change the world. When they died they had people still living who thought life would never be the same without them. Families who bought huge crypts to bury generations of the family line are only half full because the line died out 60 years later. Graves of young children who would be long dead of old age had they lived a full life. It's all here.
My dog enjoyed the walk. So did I. But I think for different reasons. The cemetary taught me something invaluable. And I will keep going back there. I need to live in the now. I shouldn't take life so seriously. The bad things in my life won't mean anything 100 years from now. I shouldn't obsess about my impact on the world -- no one will probably remember anyway. Enjoy today, the now. It's all I will ever have.
And I should stop saving money for my tombstone and use it to buy some ice cream instead.
Post Script -- A few years ago I went to Thomas Jefferson's home in Monticello -- located in Virginia. He is buried there. The graveyard is small. His monument, while larger than the rest, was simple and plain. He lists several of his accomplishments on his tombstone -- President of the United States did not make the cut. I like that.