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Are Cemeteries Dead?

Jul 12, 2022

Imagine you’ve never seen a cemetery; never in real life, never in a photo. What if you never encountered a physical reminder that someday, one day, you too shall die? How would that void change what you know and understand about life and death, and about living and dying?

I love cemeteries and cannot remember ever not loving them.

I consider cemeteries to be beautiful, fascinating places whose look and feel informs us about current and historical cultures and societies. They also honour people who never made it into the history books and help us to imagine the lives of people from long ago. While they’re places of rest for the dead and places to remember for the bereaved, they’ve also provided many hours of reflection for me, the living and the unrelated.

I’m not alone in my love for cemeteries. According to Sarah Murray in her book, Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre – How we Dignify the Dead, “Pere-Lachaise in Paris, London’s Highgate Cemetery, and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington often welcome more tourists than families visiting relatives.”

Taking Responsibility

In From Here to Eternity:Traveling the Word to Find the Good Death, after author Caitlin Doughty takes us on journeys to cemeteries in six different countries, she concludes that death acceptance “is the responsibility of those who have been tasked with creating physical and emotional environments where safe, open interaction with death and dead bodies is possible.”

Thought often forgotten landscapes, cemeteries have deep relevance and relationship to our living and our dying. Listen and watch the beautiful “Dance in the Graveyard” music video by Delta Rae for a new way to explore the reality of your mortality.

What about you?

Do you tend to frequent cemeteries or avoid them?

Why do you think cemeteries exist?

How do you think cemeteries help us understand life and death?

Please join the discussion at the bottom of this blog post. We’d love to hear from you.