Cemeteries are a part of life, not apart from life
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Oct 04, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Cemeteries are a part of life, not apart from life

St. Marys Journal Argus

Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out

It’s October — the start of the spookiest month. After we stuff our faces this weekend during Thanksgiving, the focus will shift to all things scary… Green goblins, wicked witches, smothering spider webs and lots of inexplicable mist, usually rising from an abandoned, unruly graveyard.

Wait a minute — have purveyors of horror movies and Hallowe’en paraphernalia even been to a cemetery since Dracula’s days? While I admit that I wouldn’t want to visit a cemetery in the middle of the night — just as I wouldn’t want to visit any large, unlit, public park at the same hour — cemetery visitors have little to cower from during the day.

St. Marys Cemetery held its annual Decoration Day service this past Sunday. It’s a solemn affair, arranged by the town’s ministerial association, that seeks to remind us of those who died over the year, and bring solace to those who still mourn. It’s a short service, with a few prayers, readings and hymns, and meaningful unto itself. But what’s also meaningful is what happens before and after the service. Attendees and other visitors catch up with each other, tidy the flowers on the graves, and wander through the grounds.

Cemeteries can be a sad place; the burial of a loved one can be overwhelming and cathartic in its finality. For many, the first visit to a cemetery is a negative one: as part of a funeral, or going to visit a grave of an older relative as a child. While we should always be mindful of the primary purpose cemeteries serve (and behave as such), cemeteries can also be enjoyed as a recreational, restorative place to visit.

Victorian-era families treated their cemeteries as public parks; it wasn’t unusual for families to spend the day with their dearly departed, or have a picnic on their own (unused) plot. It seems strange now, admittedly, but this was a time when death was de facto part of life: people died at home and their funeral was held at home. Death wasn’t the isolated experience it often is now.

While picnics do still take place in cemeteries, they’re more for camp or shock value: they’re usually accompanied by ghost stories and people in period costumes… not very respectful to those who have come to rest there. Giggling about ghosts doesn’t show any understanding of life. Rather, cemeteries should be a place for introspection, relaxation and even family activities, within reason.

Take a look at St. Marys’ own cemetery. People regularly and respectfully use the roads to stroll in contemplation or exercise, and the community gardens provide a poignant commentary on the circle of life. The cemetery is such a beautiful destination right now: the leaves on the towering trees are changing, and the many flowers marking graves are still in full bloom. The orderly rows of memorial stones are soothing, in a way; while they signify loss, they also remind us that our time on earth is limited and we need to make the most of our existence. Even if you’re not a religious person, or prefer to go the simple route when your time is up, the verdant quietude of a cemetery offers peace and a connection with nature.

Lest you think I’m biased, I came across an article in this month’s Canadian Living, called Exploring Cemeteries. It’s a guide for families to help get over that ghoulish perception of cemeteries many people, especially kids, have. The article suggested taking the kids for a walk or bike ride through a cemetery, and discuss the common images found at cemeteries, reading inscriptions on stones (many say more than you’d think!), making a map of the cemetery’s landmarks, and bringing along a tree identification book and search for different species. If you’re looking for something active to do after your Thanksgiving meal — and a different way to give thanks — this might just be the ticket.

Chances are you’ll be dealing with turkey leftovers this weekend. The curry flavour will make that day-old bird taste fresh.

Curried Turkey and Apple Pitas

(from www.turkeyrecipes.ca)

1/2 lb. cooked turkey, diced

1 green onion, finely sliced

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. curry powder (or to taste)

1 apple, cored and diced

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup apple sauce

Salt and pepper

4 lettuce leaves

2 pitas, cut in half

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a bowl, gently fold together the turkey, green onion, lemon juice, curry powder, apple, yogurt, and apple sauce and adjust seasoning as desired.

In each of the pita halves, place a piece of lettuce, and a quarter of the turkey mixture. Sprinkle with almonds. Makes two to four servings.

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