How many tombstones are forgotten chapters of history?
Those Who Look After Those Who Passed
There is a solitude to graveyards. That is a pretty obvious statement but one worth looking into, an idea worth developing. Death is a solitary event but we (most of us anyway) will spend our time after death (in the corporeal form anyway) in the company of others. But who looks after us after we die?
The obvious answer to that question is family and/or friends. What if there is no immediate family or there are no friends to look after a grave? I grew up near a graveyard, and as a child, I was fascinated by how old some of the graves were, many were well over one hundred years old. Growing up I often wondered if the deceased still had any living family to visit and tend to the graves. The church did a fine job of tending to the grounds but as a child and into adulthood I noticed that there were never many flowers or proof of regular visits. The graveyard felt, in many ways, as if it were a forgotten place until recently when I discovered that there is a small group of volunteers who have started tending to the graves of those who no longer have family or friends to do so. We’ve had some pretty serious storms out here in the Midwest of late, serious enough to damage several of the older tombstones. This group of volunteers worked for hours setting gravestones up right and patching them the best they could as the church saw to the removal of fallen trees. I found it heartwarming to see people dedicate their time and effort to individuals they did now know and are separated by one hundred to nearly two hundred years of history.
I read somewhere that one test of a society is to take a close look at how it treats its children. I think another test of a society is to look at how it honors its dead.
…if They Are Educational?
What was you first experience with a good (that is as subjective of a word as you can get) horror story? I’m talking about the first time you read an adult horror story, not a children’s story. My guess is that some story by Edgar Allan Poe will come to mind for many of you, it does for me. Most of us had our first experience with Poe in junior high or maybe freshman year, and “The Cask of Amontillado” is often the first story we read and/or is the most memorable.
“The Cask of Amontillado” came to mind when I started thinking about this month’s topic concerning grave thoughts. I don’t want to spoil the story for the few of you out there who haven’t read it (well, maybe it’s not taught anymore but damn near everybody my age has read it). A grave, of sorts, plays an important role in the story so I decided to give it another read. I came away with a few observations. First, the exposition of the story discusses some of the finer points of revenge. Second, there is a whole of drinking going on in this story (hell, the title references booze). Finally, with proper planning and execution you can get away with murder. I’m not trying to disparage the story in any way. It’s a well written, compact story that incorporates many elements of classic gothic fiction, but damn I don’t remember these points from way back in junior high.
I figure my teacher all those years ago was more interested in teaching Poe the author (the man’s tormented life plays a large role in his appeal to many people, adolescents included) than really focusing on the content and context of the story itself. Either way I remember the class reading it and enjoying it. But I can’t help but think that today, in a world where people are easily offended and triggered, if teaching the horror classics of Poe would still be considered educational? Give it another read or first read and let me know what you think.
“The Cask of Amontillado” from The Best Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (2011) by Edgar Allan Poe.
The graveyard is a solemn example of being alone in a crowd.
Six Bearers of Wisdom
• “Every heart has its graveyard.” -Zora Neal Hurston-
• “As we go on with our lives we tend to forget that the jails and the hospitals and the madhouses and the graveyards are packed.” -Charles Bukowski-
• “Many a fervid man writes books as cold and flat as graveyard stones.” -Elizabeth Barrett Browning-
• “Man is the only religious animal. In the Holy task of smoothing his brother’s path to the happiness of heaven, he has turned the globe into a graveyard.” -Mark Twain-
• “Politics can be the graveyard of the poet. And only poetry can be his resurrection.” -Langston Hughes-
• “Cemetery, n. An isolated suburban spot where mourners match lies, poets write at a target, and stonecutters spell for a wager.” -Ambrose Bierce-