On graveyards…

I miss graveyards.

I mean the lovely ones, with hills and big oak trees and ornate above-ground shrines and stone caskets.

I love pebble paths between sections where I can read names of the centuries gone: Ann, who died in 1853.

I miss the graveyards behind the church, in the middle of the old East Coast town, mistaken for a park.

I love cities that don’t hide their dead on the edge of town: old cities, churches that understood the wholeness, completion of both baptism and burial on the same plot of land.

There are many things I miss about the East Coast (which I always miss the most this time of year…Philadelphia in the fall is perfection) but what I miss the most right now is the graveyards. Where are they in Austin? I haven’t seen them yet. I know Texas cities were late bloomers. They became themselves mostly during the 20th century and by that time it seemed reasonable to put the graveyard on the outskirts of town in a treeless plot, and stick a chain link fence around it.

It’s just that I’m a little homesick. For Syracuse? For Philadelphia? For San Francisco? I don’t know.

Don’t mind me, Austin. Really. I’m not trying to judge your depth based on where you bury your dead. Just consider this a lament from a girl who likes gravestones, who sometimes to needs to walk around them to remind herself that she will die too.

  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    You remind me of Anne Shirley-not-yet-Blythe, walking in the graveyard during her college years. Once I got over my childish fears of graveyards, I found they are lovely, grounding places. Mississippi is full of forgotten family graveyards, just off the back roads, and nearly every church has a graveyard. In fact, it’s my dislike for the church where our family has a plot (too many childhood memories of a screaming preacher) that makes me want to be cremated. Well, that, and other things. So I have threatened to haunt the place if anyone dares to bury me there!

  • http://gravatar.com/livingpalm Tamara @ Living Palm

    Yes, autumn is going to be tough, I can tell. I’ve seen a couple of cemeteries. I think even when I was driving out of the Hyde Park neighborhood on Friday. It was the strangest thing — a huge, chainlink-fenced lot with very old headstones leaning toward the ground dotted across the lot but totally spread out from each other. I couldn’t make sense of it as I was driving past it? I’ll be keeping my eyes open for sure. Maybe down here they use mausoleums because the ground is too difficult to dig?

  • http://carriesburnttoast.blogspot.com carrie stephens

    You can for sure find an old graveyard nexy to a century church in Pflugerville north of Austin on Immanuel road. I used to live behind it. We could see it from our backyard. It always made for contemplative days when there was a funeral.

  • http://twitter.com/conversiondiary Jennifer Fulwiler (@conversiondiary)

    I love this reflection. I wonder if the prevalence of onsite church cemeteries on the East Coast have to do with the Catholic influences in those areas? It seems that the Baptist and Methodist traditions, which were the primary influences here in Austin as it was settled, place less emphasis on the church as a geographic center of life.

    I too think there’s something powerful about baptism and burial taking place in the same place. When I drop my kids off at our parish preschool, the church is often setting up for a funeral. There’s something oddly comforting about the whole circle of life taking place here.

    (On a somewhat related note, we spent a week at a Benedictine monastery recently, and one of the most powerful moments was walking through the monastery graveyard, seeing the tombstones of the monks who lived there, going back to the early 1800′s.)

    Great post!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X