Cemeteries are often filled with floral offerings of love and remembrance. Have you ever wondered why it’s customary to leave flowers on a grave? Long before the practice of embalming became the norm, people would gather flowers around a corpse to mask the smell of decay. Since families typically displayed the deceased inside the home, an event known as a “wake” in Western culture, flowers made the process more bearable. Once the stench of deathly rot was no longer an issue, the act of flower-giving remained as a staple of the mourning process. Instead of hiding offending odors, the flowers took on a symbolism of respect, remembrance, and love.
We are quick to shower our love and respect upon the dead. Why are we not as giving when it involves those who are still among us? Perhaps if we gave kindness and compassion to the living just as we give flowers to the deceased, our society wouldn’t be such a terrible place. Lay a flower upon a grave, and a kind word or deed unto the world.
Some may find me odd or off-putting due to my affinity for cemeteries. While I am, and always have been, a lover of the macabre, my attachment to the graveyard developed from somewhere else entirely. Growing up, home was not always a peaceful place. Without going into dramatic detail, I will say that my childhood home was frequently filled with yelling, anger, and fear. The summer after fifth grade, we moved to a house that was just a block from a huge cemetery. I would often go there to find peace and solitude during turbulent times.
Inside the cemetery, I felt safe. I would sit and write poetry, or simply daydream about a better life. I would sometimes roam the rows of graves, reading names and dates; I wondered how these people met their demise. What stories would they tell me if they were able? What had their lives been like? The souls of the cemetery were never a threat. They didn’t yell, they didn’t lash out, they never made me feel small. Many times throughout my teens and early twenties, I would wander through cemeteries, seeking an escape from pain.
These days, I am in a much better place in my life. A healthier place. I have love, family, and an inner peace I never knew was attainable. However, I still love to walk through cemeteries. It still brings me an unmatchable calm. I enjoy the beauty of the intricate tombstones and the gorgeous trees. I admire the symbolic continuation of love for the deceased from visitors. In a time when we all seem so hurried and everything seems so loud and fast, the cemetery remains tranquil and still. The cemetery isn’t a frightful place; it is quite lovely if you take the time to appreciate it.
There’s something hauntingly beautiful about a snowy cemetery. A soft blanket of white gently decorating the graves. When the snow gets deep, the world becomes hushed and quiet…not unlike a tomb. Everything feels peaceful, rather than eerie. I think all souls, both living and deceased, can appreciate that.