I think everyone should spent some time at a cemetery from time to time. There is just something about being surrounded by people who once were but no longer are. There is so much wisdom in the ground at places like that. So many lives lived. So many stories played out, most of them already forgotten. It’s difficult to imagine just how many lives have been lived, and been touched, by those lives who have ended up on whatever cemetery you’re at.
Today I was at Bispebjerg cemetery for the first time since moving here. It is an amazing place. So beautiful. It really gives you just what you expect when you go to a cemetery: peace and quiet. Place and time to reflect. Other people who are there for the same reason. What I really like about this cemetery is that there are the graves, graves that look like graves look all over the country. But then there’s also a park-site, so to speak. Big open park-like areas, where they have done something extraordinary to make it grand. The nature is just of a different world in there, seeing as you’ve just come in from the city. There is this little pond somewhere in the far end of the cemetery. I sat there for an hour. Just looking at the water. Looking at the grass around it. The people coming and going. The bouquets of flowers scattered about on the grass. That was a really nice touch. It seemed like this part was for the people who did not have a grave of their own. I don’t know if anyone was buried under the grass, but the bouquets were just laid out here and there on the grass and down by the pond.
It made me think of the cemetery-ness there is to cemeteries. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the cemetery where your loved ones are buried, or on a cemetery in the other end of the country or in a different part of the world; when you’re on a cemetery you think of the same people you would think of if you were at any other cemetery. And I think, maybe those bouquets were laid by people who had moved to the city like I, and wanted to come to the cemetery to remember their dead relatives.
I’m not a big believer in afterlife and the like. I believe cemeteries are for the living. I believe burial is for the living. I believe we’re done when we’re done. But as long as we’re alive, we will walk around with the memories of the people who have left us, and that’s why cemeteries are so important. It’s difficult to set time aside to really dig deep and reflect on the people who are no longer in your life. There are so many things going on; you have to live in the now, otherwise you’re already partly dead yourself. But once in a while it will do you good to sit down, clear your mind and just take in feelings you’ve once felt. Go back to simpler times when you were truly joyful. You might still feel joyful from time to time, but I bet it’s in a different manner from when you were a child. And what you remember from your childhood is often moments with your grandparents. At least that is the case for me. And so I can sit on a bench near a pond at a cemetery and travel back in time.
I think mental time traveling is quite important to modern people. We have just about realized that time travel is not going to happen in our lifetime, but we have the power of our minds to take us even further than any machine ever could. Our mind can take us both horizontally and vertically. We are able to see some things that once were, but we’re also able to understand things in a new way when reflecting on them. There are always more details to look at. There was always that extra word that you didn’t really think about the first time around.
That’s why cemeteries are important. Because once you get lost in the past, there is no saying when you will come back to the present. The past is right there; the story has been laid out – it’s up to you to figure out what really happened, and if things could have been different, had you said something else than you did. If we didn’t have cemeteries, we would have to have these thoughts about the past in the middle of our everyday routines, and I’m afraid, at some point, we wouldn’t be able to draw a line between past and present. It would all flow together, and at some point we might forget to live in the present, because we get caught up in the questions left unanswered in the past. With cemeteries we have a secluded area for those really deep thoughts about the past. We pass the gate, and our mindset shifts. We’re with our dead relatives. We speak to them. We bring them flowers. We’re only an iota of lunacy away from bringing them a hot meal. When we enter the cemetery we are in the past, and it’s okay; all the people at the cemetery are in the past. But once you have spent your time there, once you have visited the past and feel like you’re recharged, think you have some new answers to the old questions, you can just as easily leave the cemetery and your mind eases back to the present again.
Believing in magic is something I find difficult as well. But if there are magical places on Earth, I think the cemeteries are where they’re at.