Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Quirky Hobby

If you haven’t picked up by now that I’m quirky (“odd” and "weird" have a negative connotations), this should settle it for you. I love going to cemeteries. Wait, don’t leave, just give me a minute and hear me out. I don’t go with pouches of fish scales, eyes of newts or crystals I go with reverence and curiosity.

Death, and what happens after death, is interesting to me. Is there a heaven and hell? I don’t know. Are people reincarnated? I don’t think so. I struggle to believe in god- although it would be kind of nice sometimes. Where does a soul go, if it goes anywhere at all? What I do know is that everyone makes a difference in someone else’s life. The saying “To the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world” is a bit too lovey-dovey for me, but there is something to take away from that. Everyone is loved at one point or another in their lives, hopefully for all of it, and hopefully it continues on after they die too.

I joke about not liking people, ok about hating people, but it’s because I don’t understand why they do the things they do sometimes. I really do like people, I like learning their story and what makes them who they are. Listening is important to me, and I think it’s something I’m able to do fairly well. Too few people really listen to anyone anymore- it’s almost like a lost art.

When I go to a cemetery, I want to learn about the people there. Since they don’t do much talking, I have to take the reins. I ask questions and do a lot of speculating. How did they die? How old were they? What were their hobbies? If they’re buried with a family, I wonder about the family too- parents, children, siblings. Did they have pets? What was their favorite book? What did they do, or want to be when they grew up? These and hundreds of other thoughts all run through my head when I’m there. I wish I could listen to them, and hear their stories.  When I leave, it’s with a sense of wonder and respect for the person regardless of if they died a hundred years ago, or three months ago.

A friend told me that people die three deaths- one when they actually die, one when they’re buried, and finally the last time anyone thinks of them. So, in a way, going to the headstones of people I’ve never met and have no connection to is keeping them alive. I love life, and I want everyone to enjoy theirs as much as I do.

Another element of cemeteries that I love is the serenity. There are no children running around you screaming, very few cars, and hardly any distractions. It’s quiet. It’s amazing how a cemetery can be right on or near a busy road, and once you’re inside the gates it’s quiet. There’s an invisible sound barrier surrounding the grounds that lets you be with your thoughts.

Despite death, more often than not, there’s a sense of new life. Fresh flowers are placed on headstones, trees are growing, and people are visiting their loved ones. It’s hopeful in a way. When you see death, you appreciate life more. You can understand how fragile and precious it really is. Visiting other people in the cemetery makes me think about their lives and how great of people they probably were.

Each time I go to a cemetery, I leave with mixed feelings. I feel big knowing that my life can impact people, yet small knowing how short life can be and how delicate it is. Life is exquisite! Enjoy it while you have it, and respect those who have lived their lives by remembering- or theorizing- the life they lived.

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