I named my blog “Cemeteries and Pajamas” because, as the blog tag says, I write in my pajamas and I like to visit cemeteries. I’ve done a lot of both in the past months and now I’d like to blog about them more. I’m still working out what I’ll say about pajamas, because blogging about what I’m wearing is kinda creepy and might attract the wrong kind of attention to the blog. So for now, stories about cemeteries!
(As a reminder, all of these visits feed the novel I’m currently writing, which heavily features cemeteries. I started visiting cemeteries for inspiration and because it’s a great excuse to step away from the keyboard from time to time.)
I wrote a little about the Woodlawn visit a few months ago, but I like to be comprehensive, and since this is the start of a new blog series, I thought I’d start with my first cemetery visit.
Woodlawn is situated on a steep hill underneath towering pines. I was accompanied by one of my wee ones. When we pulled into the tiny parking lot, the first thing he said was, “Mommy, are there ghosts here?”
My response: “Why, what did you see??”
I reassured him that there were no ghosts in the cemetery. He pointed to the thicket of woods behind the car and asked if there were ghosts in there. After I bonked my head on the car roof from jumping, I unhooked him from his carseat and we went exploring.
Visiting a graveyard with a child is a curious experience. My son was vibrant and happy as he ran between the headstones and up the mound that held, for some reason, a cannon. We listened to the wind chimes breezing against a marker. We got burrs on our shoes. We talked about how there were dead people underneath our feet. He wondered what color they were and if we could see them. I wondered how much of this would stick in his young mind.
Months later he still talks about the dead, about how they are beneath our feet, “holding us up.” We are a religiously diverse family. We don’t talk about heaven much, or higher powers, but I resonate with the image of a tiny boy being supported by those who have gone before.
Maybe it’s being a parent, or entering my late 30s, or being on sabbatical, or a combination of all three plus a dose of existential angst. But this past year has been marked by contemplating the reality of death, focused on this question, “What do I want to do before I die?” As I wrestle with these questions, I am supported by those who came before, and now, by those who come after.