Here Lies My Thoughts (or: The Sociology of Cemeteries)

I like to take a walk in the morning. It's very relaxing. No music, no audiobooks, no distractions -- just me and a dozen or so government drones circling above. Lately, my walks have taken me through a nearby cemetery.
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I like to take a walk in the morning. It's very relaxing. No music, no audiobooks, no distractions -- just me and a dozen or so government drones circling above. Lately, my walks have taken me through a nearby cemetery.

I'm not sure what the difference is between cemeteries and graveyards. I think graveyards have zombies.

We drive past cemeteries without giving it much thought. "Look to your right, kids! Human corpses!" Eh, but you could say the same thing driving past a law office, a modeling agency, or pretty much any food stand that sells cheap hot dogs. Hence, cemeteries don't have much of an impact. Still, to actually walk through a field of deceased bodies fills one with contemplation.

Cemetery sounds a little like the word secretary. Have you ever been to a Secretary Cemetery? Just look for the entitled male bosses overworking and sexually harassing the headstones.

Cemetery headstones vary considerably. There are big headstones and little ones. There are fancy, beautiful headstones and plain ones. Some headstones hang out in groups. Other headstones sit alone. Cemeteries are a lot of like high school, except that everyone is in the "goth" clique.

Many of the headstones have an image of a football team logo or a fishing pole or some sort of activity or hobby chiseled into the stone. People live for up to one-hundred years old, sometimes even longer. Yet their entire lives can be summed up by a couple of hobbies. I guess it's true what they say; life is short, so stay within your comfort zone.

Lately, my hobby is walking through cemeteries and looking at headstones. Hence, when I die, on my headstone, I'll have them chisel a picture of a headstone.

Headstones with pictures that sum up a person's life are a recent trend. In the cemetery where I take my walks, only the newer headstones have graphics. The tomb markers with death dates in the early 1900s are pretty empty -- usually accompanied by just a name and a birthdate. But if those older headstones summed up the person's entire life, then I'd imagine you'd see a lot of pictures of, oh, I don't know, constant tooth pain? Life was hard back then.

On the other hand, everyone's life can be pretty much summed up by their name, when they were born, and when they died. And maybe their horrible high school prom photos.

Married couples are often buried together, which is both lovely and sad. Some of the married couples share a headstone, which includes their names, their birth and death dates, and their AshleyMadison user accounts.

I pay attention to the death dates of the married couple headstones. Sometimes, a husband and wife die only a few years apart. But sometimes, the gap is wider, with one spouse dying twenty years or more before the other. I guess it's assumed that the living spouse will not find another wife or husband. Or, if they do, then they'll be buried with their initial spouse. Or maybe they'll be buried with their favorite spouse. It's sort of like when the Baseball Hall of Fame has to choose which team's cap a player will wear on his plaque. Legendary slugger Reggie Jackson played more years with the Oakland A's, but he's wearing a New York Yankees cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. He's "known" more for being a Yankee. People should be buried with the spouse they're most known for. Hence, Pamela Anderson should be buried next to Tommy Lee. Sorry, Kid Rick.

Cemeteries are quiet and peaceful. Unlike so many other aspects of modern society- like at one's job, for example- people still act respectful when in a cemetery. I hope they never broadcast the MTV Music Awards from a cemetery. Live from Mr. Charles Roger Westchester's Headstone (1879- 1952), it's Miley Cyrus! Shit's 'bout to get nasty! Some things should stay dignified.

Sometimes when I'm walking through the cemetery, I pass the same friendly man walking his dog. I wonder if dogs are aware of the cemetery concept. Do they know they're walking above human remains? I think it might freak them out. Although a dog park combined with a squirrel cemetery seems like a good fit.

Throughout my cemetery walk, I pass several mausoleums, the fancy little forts where wealthy dead people are housed. When I die, I hope God and Elvis don't ask me why I tolerated a society where dead people were kept in expensive little buildings, while thousands of living people remained homeless. I don't really have an answer.

Nevertheless, some of the mausoleums are quite impressive, built with beautiful, quality craftsmanship. When I die, I'd prefer a mausoleum over a coffin in the ground. That way, if it turns out I'm not really dead, at least I can spend the rest of my life in a nice little house. I don't think most Americans are properly prepared for the possibility of accidentally being buried alive. As I walk through the cemetery, and I pass by human hands desperately trying to claw out from the ground, hoping for some sort of miracle rescue, I think, "Would it have killed you to spend an extra couple of bucks on a walkie-talkie?"

Cemeteries make some people uncomfortable. I guess that's because people don't like to be reminded of death. But cemeteries aren't really about death. War is death. Poverty is death. Improvisational jazz is death. But cemeteries are about the living. I mean, once you're dead, it doesn't matter if your hotel has a Jacuzzi; the deceased don't care on whose couch they crash. Cemeteries are for people like you and me- to honor, to ponder, to appreciate.

I don't have much advice to give. But if I could offer you a suggestion while the weather is still pleasant, it would be to take a walk through a cemetery. Simply drive your car to a cemetery in town, park your car, and get out and walk. Don't bring anyone with you. Go solo. Read the names and dates and poems and quotes on the headstones. Literally touch the stones. Graze your fingertips over the words. Nobody will mind. In our modern world of flashing lights and in-your-face opinions and the on-again off-again Blake Shelton Miranda Lambert saga, it's not always easy to find a little inner peace. But this will help.

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