On cemeteries and graveyards

What could I possibly say about cemeteries that has not already been said? Seriously creepy, still, morbid, sad, pastoral, cold, lonely, desolate, the destination from which no one returns but the gravedigger and the clergy. You can call the local bone pile anything you want, but it never stops be exactly that: a bone pile, a pile of bones. That which is left when we die, the mortal combination of bone and flesh, unmoving, unfeeling, unseeing, is not but the leftovers of a life that burned brightly for a short amount of time before the soul took its leave, leaving only ash and emptiness behind. I am not convinced that there is any point in burying bodies in the ground. There are health issues for doing it, but the mortal remains of any person are only what remains after death. In spite of what Dr. Frankenstein might have alleged at some point in the past, bodies cannot be regenerated or reanimated once the end has come. There is a limit to what modern medicine and empirical sciences can do with the spark of life, but then again cemeteries are monuments to defeat and the inevitability of death, an inevitability that gives us all energy and passion, knowing that all mortal things are finite. Cemeteries are clearly about memory, creating memory, creating a monument, mourning, loss, the past, and leaving it behind. We build cemeteries because we fear death and need to put it inside an official area where we normally don’t go. Yes, we go to cemeteries to leave flowers, mourn for the dead, and to leave the newly dead, but otherwise our legends and mythologies are designed to scare away the curious and the foolish. The living know only too well that death is only always too close, but that by isolating death in a special place, death is far away and removed. The tombstones are iconic of both death and memory, and although they carry the names of the dead, the stones are a reassurance to the living that they are, indeed, alive because no stone yet carries their particular name. The cemetery is then both attractive and repellant to the living, a normal by-product of a healthy society which cannot conceive or understand the true nature of life’s final mystery. All will go to the cemetery in their time, and so in our sadness and loss, we erect monuments and stones to the memory of the departed. The stones do nothing to alleviate the sadness of loss, but the simulacrum of funerals, burial, and departure are traditions and rituals which distract us from the business at hand, saying goodbye to a loved one. For outsiders, the cemetery is a completely different kind of place: an inscribed history of a place, the people who lived there, and the people who still live there. Cemeteries, when cared for, are pleasant, quiet, pastoral scenes which are good for thinking and relaxing. What is sad, however, are the forgotten cemeteries which herald changing times and displaced civilizations, forgotten families, the abandoned dead. Perhaps cemeteries exist because the living fear being forgotten at all. Yet the brutal reality of time and memory is the cruel truth that at some point in the future, we will all be forgotten. The physical never endures. Poetry endures, words endure, stories endure. The details may fade, but the essence of art, poetry, words, will endure even when the faces are forgotten. So we dig the graves and plant the headstones.