Early State Of Mind

February 28, 2016 at 8:15 am (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Early mornings, when the weather is decent (cool, not too sunny), I like to walk out to the local cemeteries and take pictures. I find this activity calming and relaxing. The long walk to the cemetery stills me. The aloneness centers me within myself. It is a time for me to reflect and take many photos (over 300 the afternoon I spent in St. Andrews, Scotland).

SC_Cem01

This image is from a Saskatchewan (Canada) cemetery. You can tell it was early morning because of the shadows.

It was a pensive day.

I have not found any cemeteries near my new home to shoot photos in yet. I fear there will be none within walking distance as that is the norm here. There is, however, a park with a labyrinth to walk right on the edge of town. I plan to go walk there after the snow melts.

This is my early state of mind.

Advertisements

Permalink 1 Comment

My First Death

October 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

There are many first in our lives: first picture, first day of school, first confirmation, first love, first kiss, first heartbreak … the list goes on and on.

In this goth-filled month of Halloween, I want to talk to you about my first death. Not the first death I experienced – that would be my great-uncle’s death. His was the first funeral I attended at thirteen years of age.

I want to talk to you about the first death I noticed. I was young. She was young. When the undertaker’s daughter died, this was the first time I had heard of a child dying and it made me realize that I too was mortal, that I too would die.

I was eleven or twelve and she was younger (seven I think). She was born with a hole in her heart in a time and place where this was still a death sentence. I was born with a congenital heart murmur. We grew up in the same small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business. So even though I never met here I knew who she was and why she died.

Her funeral was in the Fall just after school had started. It was a Catholic funeral. I did not attend as I was not catholic. I heard that the coffin was small and white. I heard that she was buried with her favourite doll.

“What does a child take with them?”

Where did she go? What did she remember as she paused between life and death? After all these years (parents now gone also) who remembers her? I remember her but I cannot name her.

Mount Osare (Mount Doom/Mount Fear) is an extinguished volcano far in the north [of Japan], where the dead are said to pause before leaving the world completely. (p. 26) Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye By Marie Mutsuki Mockett; New York: W. W. Norton, 2015.

We all knew what she left behind. Grieving parents and a grieving small town. She was an only child. Her parents never had another. Her father was the local funeral director but I don’t know if this was a profession he entered into before or after her death. I knew him, many years later, when he was an old man and I was a young adult. His wife had already passed on by then. I didn’t know him well enough to ask him such questions.

We don’t talk about death. It is morbid. It is wrong. But I am the child who use to haunt graveyards and read tombstones. There is art in such places. There is nature. There is joy. There is laughter. There are children there both living and dead. Maxine, my best friend, and I use to wander through the local cemeteries learning local history and speculating about what our grown-up lives would be like.

Our ancestors use to picnic in graveyards before there were parks. They use to remember. They use to prepare and bury their own. Is this why the father become an funeral director or was he one before tragedy struck?

I think about things like this. I am morbid by nature. Maybe it’s all those fairy tales I read in my childhood. The ones with death and witches and ghosts and ghouls and the true fey, lurking, plotting death and destruction on us mere mortals.

I always wanted to live in a gigantic and ancient place. Houses like those featured in Six Feet Under and the book The Undertaker’s Daughter. Houses haunted both metaphorically and literally by the past.

Just as the funeral home was a house for both living and the dead, this house seemed to exist somewhere between the past and the present.

I often wandered through the old part of the house when no one else was home. It felt like eavesdropping on another era. (Chapter 15)

The Undertaker’s Daughter
by Kate Mayfield
New York: Gallery Books, 2015

October. Death. Memory.

Samhain. El Dios de Muertos.

All I ask is that you remember me.

SC Funeral Home 01

To Be Sure

I wouldn’t want to bring him back
from his permanent internment
even if I could
but I wouldn’t mind a visit now and then,
a trip down
to keep each other company.

(Beginning of a poem by Larry Sorkin; the remainder of the poem can be found at the front of The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield.)

Permalink Leave a Comment

To Remember

November 9, 2014 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Remember
By Christina Rossetti

Cemetery Shadow

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Death Is Your Gift

October 19, 2014 at 10:22 am (Book Commentary) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“And I will show you something different from either your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”  (T.S. Eliot)

Mount Pleasant Cemetery_SC

I was a Cemetery Girl. This was before goth was a thing. As a child, my best friend and I use to wander the local graveyards exploring and reading the gravestones. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was a pleasant way to spend a coolish Fall afternoon.

It was usually Fall when you would find us in the graveyard. Leaves would be falling and the world’s axis was spinning into winter and long, cold days of nothing to do. Fall is my favourite season. It is cool. School is starting. There is a quietness in the air. Halloween is just around the corner.

Most of the cemeteries we haunted were country cemeteries; the closet one was a block outside of town. The other one we visited regularly was a mile out. We hardly ever saw anyone else there. It seemed a shame. There was so much beauty and peacefulness there and everyone else was missing it.

We come upon an old woman in black, holding an umbrella against the sun, sitting in front of her husband’s grave on an overturned bucket. She speaks to us in her own language, pointing at the face on the black headstone, crying into a hankie. Lisa gives her a fresh bottle of water. (p. 244)

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training
by Tom Jokinen
Toronto:Random House of Canada, 2010

Country Cemetery (Dahlton)

I still haunt graveyards. I’ve taken pictures of cemeteries all over Saskatchewan, in Scotland and recently in Anchorage, Alaska. I’m always going to regret not being able to get to explore the historical cemetery at Skagway.

Death intrigues me. No, how we process death intrigues me. No, the history sitting around in graveyards entrances me. I am an explorer of the past. I like to explore what use to be.

I also wonder about what is beyond – beyond the shadows, beyond death. What is the next step? Knowing the plan calms me. I like to know the steps, what to do, what ie expected of me at each turn. Don’t surprise me. I hate surprises!

Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery

I delight in exploring cemeteries and graveyards. Did you know the two terms are not interchangeable? A cemetery is an area set apart for or containing graves, tombs, or funeral urns, especially one that is not a churchyard. A graveyard is a burial ground, associated with or beside a church.

I also delight in reading books about the death industry. I enjoyed the television series Six Feet Under and always wanted to live in a large, Victorian funeral home.

The latest funeral industry book I bought is Caitlin Doughty’s book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Caitlin oversees the blog The Order of the Good Death that I regularly read and has a series of videos about death and the way we (as a society) deal with it. Scroll down this page for the book video.

I am a cemetery girl. I haunt graveyards. Death is my familiar. I fear not.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment