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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

POSITIVELY Haunting the Cemeteries

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.
                                                                                                                                                                             -        Harriet Beecher Stowe

I have a confession to make – I like cemeteries. 

I don’t find them spooky or scary though, I find them peaceful - as they ought to be. Places of contemplation and rest eternal. Most people don’t think of them as travel destinations, but truth be told, I enjoy visiting them. Some of the highlights of my trips have included  visits to cemeteries; Metairie, Arlington, and Verdun to name a few. Some of Chicago’s cemeteries are said to be haunted but I have yet to visit any of those nor have I been to Al Capone’s grave. Definitely on my to-do list.

I don’t know where the fascination comes from, but I’m definitely not the only one who haunts cemeteries. Sometimes it’s the history of a place that grabs you, sometimes it’s just reading the dates on tombstones from another century, and sometimes the draw is the celebrity who now 'resides' there. James Dean’s tombstone in Indiana still gets covered with lipstick kisses, as does Oscar Wilde’s in Paris. Not to mention flowers from still adoring fans.

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France
Arlington National Cemetery, just outside of Washington D.C. is an impressive place to visit. To stand at the eternal flame in front of John Kennedy’s grave is a somber and moving experience - a moment I never thought I would experience. Actors, politicians, writers and other assorted celebrities are all buried side by side – Joe Louis, Lee Marvin, Audi Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Dashiell Hammett, George Patton, Glenn Miller, Gus Grissom and Ira Hayes are just a few of the notable names in Arlington National Cemetery. Names you would never guess had such impressive service records. The list is incredible, along with hundreds of others whose names are remembered only by their families. The honor and respect shown by visitors is truly touching. No hurrying, no screaming children, no  loud voices. Just respect. As it should be.

Audie Murphy's grave - Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, VA
The French National Cemetery in Verdun holds 13,000 crosses marking the graves of over 130,000 unidentified remains from that long and horrific battle of WWI. One hundred thirty thousand. Unidentified. Not far away, in the cemetery in Meuse-Argonne lie 14,246 Americans killed in that war. Sobering.

Verdun, France
In Metairie, on the outskirts of New Orleans, the monuments are works of art. Large tombs of the well-to-do contrast with row upon row of vaults.  Tomb or vault, after a year and a day another body can be placed inside, with older remains getting swept to the back to make room for the new.

Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, LA
And in Charleston South Carolina, the Magnolia Cemetery  is another amazing walk through history.

Driving through the Wales countryside I stopped at several graveyards. I love the way the cemeteries spread outward from the churches. It brought to life all those Gothic novels I have ever read. And in London, although not technically a cemetery, hundreds of dignitaries and royalty are buried in Westminster Abbey – their names engraved on monuments and on the stones beneath your feet.
Newport Church - Pembrokeshire, Wales

One of my favorite cemeteries is perched on the hillside just outside Virginia City, Nevada. Another history lesson that offers a fascinating peek into the history of this gold rush town.  
Virginia City, NV
Another famous – or rather, infamous cemetery is Boothill, In Tombstone, Arizona.  Any fan of the American West or Western movies has certainly heard the names Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Tombstone and Boothill. If you're in Tombstone, you certainly have to see Boothill. The stories of those residents  tell the tale of a rough and uncertain life in the early American West.

Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, AZ
Do I think cemeteries and graveyards are haunted? Nah. But walking through them it’s hard not to imagine the faces and the lives of the people who are buried there. And just maybe...

Maybe that little movement you catch out of the corner of your eye, or that soft rustling you hear behind you isn’t really the wind. Maybe it’s a memory.

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1 comment:

  1. Cemeteries, eh...a "Positively" perfect read for Howl-oween eve!