Many people find this surprising, but I enjoy spending time in cemeteries. I find it meaningful and peaceful.
First I just love experiencing the greenness of cemeteries, the well-kept grass, the trees and hedges. They’re very enjoyable to wander through—a cemetery can be very much like a park. I think that’s fitting. We should shape the places where we remember of death in such a way that they are beautiful with the realization that a new life will occur, and that death is not the end of our existence. We should never forget that death is not the only reality that we experience.
Graveyards are also quiet and peaceful. There aren’t many people there, and the people who are there aren’t noisy. A graveyard is better than a park, in that you aren’t continually interrupted and disturbed in your thoughts. But still, they enjoyable to wander through and enjoy.
Graveyards connect me with history
There’s so much history in a cemetery. If you know the general history of the area, or even just the history of the nation, you can look at the dates on the tombstones and get an idea of what the people did and lived through. In fact, sometimes you can tell that someone might have died in a certain war; or, if a lot of people died in the same year, it might have been an epidemic of some kind of illness. Gravestones tie us not just to the general broad history that we’re taught in our history classes, but also to how history affects individual people.
In that vein, I like to feel a connection with all those who have died. Once these people were alive, and it would have been so interesting and meaningful to know them when they were. We can know so little about them from their gravestone, but at least we know that they were a person, that they had joys and sorrows, that they loved people and had enemies. But you can get little tips from their tombstone. For example, sometimes there’s a rhyme or a saying that describes their life, or maybe a favorite Bible verse inscribed on the stone. You may see their nicknames, which are also helpful for understanding them and their surroundings. Through little hints like that, we get an idea of that person and their family, what they were like, and what they meant to the people around them.
Reminder of Mortality
Spending time in a graveyard reminds me of my own eventual death. We all will die sometime, unless Jesus returns first. I fully expect that my body will sometime be laid down into a grave. It’s healthy for me to remember that, and to remember that, even though I have an immortal soul, and even though I expect to see Jesus and my family in the resurrection, the sobering fact is just that I’m going to die. I’m going to have to leave this world sometime, and I won’t see it again until the resurrection.
Seeing a graveyard and walking through it helps me to put my hopes and ambitions into perspective. It helps me to understand that the things that I’m doing are only small things done by a small person. I’m just a blip in the radar. I’m not that important to the grand scheme of things. But then again, this reminder helps me have the passion to do those things, because I only have a limited time in which to do them. So spending time in a graveyard helps me in humility and it also helps me in motivation.
It’s good to be grounded. It’s good to have a sense for the seriousness of life. If we experience that, you can experience life’s joys better. There’s a kind of wistful sadness that I sometimes sense in a graveyard, which somehow helps me to understand my joy more and to experience a deeper and fuller joy that includes peace and rest within it.