Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A trip to the Graveyard

An old family cemetery is an amazing thing, and I'm grateful that my family has one.  It's located in the country, nothing but fields around it.  At least once per year I go with my Grandmas and Aunts to tend the graves.  We take new flowers for our beloved dead, and bring supplies to clean the stones.  The stones are gone over with a brush and the cleaning solution to prevent moss growth that would obscure the names and dates.  We have a lot of family there, so by the time we're done we're sweaty and pretty well covered with all manner of graveyard dirt.  This is something we've been doing ever since I can remember, and something that we've done since before I was born. 

For some families, visiting the graves of their loved ones on Memorial Day (in the US) is not all that uncommon.  Unfortunately it's getting to be less common.  What is unusual about my family (based on my observation of other families graveyard habits) is not that once per year we clean and care for the graves, but that we visit on a regular basis every time we get the chance.  All of us, and we are a very large family, stop by the graveyard to visit anytime we're near it and have a few minutes to spare.  There's an understanding that our dead know and hear when we speak to them, even among the fundamentalist-christian members of the family.  Of course, we don't have to go to the graveyard to speak to them, but that's a subject for another post.

There are some old graves that are not family members by blood (that we know of) and over the years we've adopted many of these into our care routine.  There is a Civil War soldier grave that I took on responibility for bringing flowers to and cleaning 18 years ago, and a few others.  They've become beloved dead as well.

It bothers me when people ignore death, or act as if it's something shameful to be avoided.  For me, my dead are as much recipients of love and respect as my living.  Seeing people recoil from touching a dead body is confusing to me.  I know that in our current culture people are not prepared to be comfortable with death in most cases, and the coldness of the flesh is shocking.  But still.. I find it confusing.  When one of my own go, I hold their hands as I say goodbye, or kiss their brow.  I feel that I would insult them if I were recoiling from their new state of being. 

So I'm just typing to say, remember your beloved dead.  If your family was the worst shit of the worst and you're glad they're gone then they're not beloved.  But beloved dead doesn't have to be 'family' in the most literal sense of the word.  Find your own beloved, don't be limited to your family tree.

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