I’ve always found graveyards to be interesting, though admittedly just yesterday – for the purpose of taking photos – was the first time I’ve ever gone to one outside of a funeral. There’s just something about them that I find so captivating. In a way, they are a moment almost frozen in time. Almost. For the average person, it is our last stand. Many of us may end up having children, and even grandchildren, but once they have kids, and their kids have kids, and ours have gone in their own time, who will remember us? Who will know or speak our name?
Most would find walking in a graveyard at two in the morning an eerie experience, but I found it to be more of a humbling and sad one. Approaching things at first with an artist’s eye, all I wanted was to get shots of the aged headstones and examine the old mausoleum that I passed every Sunday as a child on the way to church. But as I tried to shoot in the low light, concentrating on focusing on the barely legible letters and dates on many of the stones, I came to wonder how many of the graves hadn’t been visited in years, decades, or even a century. I wondered if anyone even knew the name of the person below, with some headstones so weather beaten that words no longer remained. I thought of how, with two hundred years gone by, the last testament of someone’s existence no longer existed at all, but just a stone or concrete cross to mark that a body had been buried there.
In the twenty years I’ve been around, I never once stopped and literally thought “When I’m dead, I’m gone”. We all know this to a certain extent. At some point, our bodies will succumb to the forces of time in one way or another, and we’re done. We all have this feeling that when we’re gone, there will be those that miss us, and that we will live on in the lives of those we touched, and in a way we will. This we all just know. But standing among the rows of stones and plates in the grass, I actually stopped and thought “When I’m dead, I’m gone”. It may take a couple hundred years, but there will come a time when I never existed. No one will know my face, or life story. My name will be nothing more than a line on some ancestry register at best, and the words on the stone that mark my grave, the short phrase to epitomize my life, will wear down to nothing.
If you’re bored or get a chance, visit an old graveyard. Walk among some of the rows, read the names and dates and the three word bios of the people beneath your feet. If you take the time, it’s a very curious experience, and I’m sure it will do different things to different people, but I still say it’s an experience worth having.