{life} a memory of a cemetery



Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting a fun activity called “A Grave Tale” to accompany the RIP (Readers Imbibing Peril) read-along of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

As ‘graveyards’ are the theme of this book and we will be in the month of October, I am proposing that anyone who wants to participate puts up a post on Wednesday, Oct 10th that has a ‘graveyard’ theme. It may be you writing about books or films set in graveyards that strike your fancy, it may be posting images of graveyards that you find around the ‘net that excite you and/or artist profiles of people who work in a ‘graveyard’ motif. It could be writing about famous graveyards that you would like to visit or about real-life scary graveyard experiences you’ve had as an adult or child. The choices are wide open! 


I have relatively few childhood memories. I figure they are saving themselves up for a nice visitation when I am really old. Sometimes I’ve story to share with a daughter who asks. Or something may yet surface with the right prompting. Among the rare locations from whence memory comes is this little village where we lived only about a year; the year that I must’ve been six and in the first grade. There was a cemetery not far from the house we had rooms in. I remember it was there I learned how to make rubbings of headstones. The lesson has an absolute utter strangeness because I cannot recall a time since that I have spent any time outside of funerals in a cemetery with my mom. And yet, I feel sure it was her with the thin paper and bared crayons. Odder still is another memory of this cemetery; the one that begins with the neighbors rounding up my siblings and I to come to the church, the sort of church that had kneeling boards. It was evening and nothing had proper lighting. It all seemed festive going; despite this being one of those destinations the parents would say “wait and see.” Even the topic of death was handled with similar explanation, “wait and see. You’ll know it when you get there.”

Words were said, in German likely, could’ve been Latin. I just remember it being a chilly autumn evening and everyone in the village was there. Surely we were with friends, maybe the family we rented from? Or maybe kids from the neighborhood? There were candles with paper halos to catch the wax. One touched the next to light and I don’t know why mom would’ve thought it was wise for me to have a candle. Now I’m not so sure I had one. I was infamous by then for sticking fingers in flames. Maybe I mistook ‘make a wish’ for ‘take a wish,’ and mom would exclaim: “I wish you would stop doing that.” She mustn’t have been there.

I remember the procession that followed, hushed and electric we marched toward the cemetery. I recall our going, but not our arriving. Were we bustled off to bed instead? Or did we walk that meandering path from one entrance to another, in amid lots of living bodies with candles and coats and visible breath instead of running past the dead in a game of chase other times before—but rarely after.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Carl V. says:

    That is an interesting memory. It makes me recollect some of my own that stand out merely because they are accompanied by periods of acute remembrance and vague detail, so I’m not sure if the memory is entirely real or the memory of a dream. I don’t really remember going to a lot of funerals when I was a child. I have more vague memories of the first one I attended and a few more clear memories of the passing of one of my grandmothers, but I remember that more because I dreamt about her that night and because I got in a fight with a cousin during the ceremony afterwards.

    1. L says:

      I think I question funeral memories because they seem so like the ones in movies sans intrigue or scandal or even overwrought weeping fits–okay, maybe not so similar after all. A fight would make one memorable. My paternal grandfather was buried his pajamas per his request. which was funny because he was able to pull off dapper and dignified just the same.

  2. Deb Atwood says:

    Very interesting ceremony. In Mexico, they celebrate Dias de los Muertos, and the community will come out to the graveyard and light candles and eat and string lights and colored paper from the trees. Maybe there’s a universal memorial night theme that many communities have now forgotten.

    1. L says:

      I think you are right. I think it must have been a community memorial of some sort. I asked my parents and they remember sending me and my siblings (two of whom are older than me), but they hadn’t a name for it, only that it was special and they couldn’t pass up the invitation. we ended up at a lot of strange things that way–and the most wonderful weddings I’ve ever attended. 🙂

      I like the idea of Dias de los Muertos, the community aspect of the festivity and the storytelling especially. I met some people recently who gather flowers (as their season is ending) and take them to the cemetery for Memorial Day. they go early and place them on family and then others’ graves. They gather the young to family markers and tell stories and share memories. then they have a big picnic/barbeque. Makes me really wish my family wasn’t so spread out…

  3. lynnsbooks says:

    What a really intriguing tale and so well written.
    Thanks for sharing that memory.
    Lynn 😀

  4. Thanks for sharing your memories! Intriguing and beautifully written. The elusiveness of the memories makes me think they’re kind of ghost memories themselves…

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