Honoring the Dead

It may sound macabre, but Carly and I have always enjoyed visiting cemeteries. We love looking at the names, reading the stories and deciphering the weathered dates. We talk about what life might have been like then, why they died so young, or so old, why they have an image of a fishing lure or a violin or a poem on their headstone. We visit family members’ graves when we can. Carly notes all the unique and beautiful names and I make sure to point out all the service men and women.

Honoring the dead builds a type of social capital—a capital our society often trades for a sterilized packaging and starchy dismissal of the fact that we all share the bookends of mortality.

Carly at the Palfreyman grave plot-Springville Utah

Carly at the Palfreyman grave plot-Springville Utah

It may sound ironic, but visiting cemeteries invigorates in the purest sense. The mundane complexities rearrange into their proper places as we give deference to the ultimate deadline. We talk about life in the context of mortality and suddenly there’s an urgency to live. The process causes us to look inward and outward, to the past and to the future. It helps us slow down to enjoy and gives purpose to our haste.

We leave the grounds connected, not just to our ancestors but to one another, to ourselves as individuals, and even to the complete strangers—both living and dead. Honoring the dead builds a type of social capital—a capital our society would often trade for a sterilized packaging and starchy dismissal of the fact that we all share the bookends of mortality. But share them we do. And it only takes a short walk through a peaceful space on a cool morning in late May to remember this. After which there is plenty of time for barbecues, swim parties, concerts, sports, and hikes—plenty of time to enjoy being alive.

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