What It's Like To
Walk Past a Cemetery
by Jarad Johnson
I am a walker, not a runner. Every day that it’s not raining, I’m out walking up and down the road that I live on. There’s quite a bit of scenery, and thankfully it's mostly trees and peoples yards. The yards in my neighborhood vary greatly. There’s a cute blue house with some pretty standard cottage garden plantings. There’s my house, with still far too much grass (both in the flowerbeds and otherwise) and there’s a few houses which appear to be professionally landscaped, by which I mean, boring. No offense neighbors, but your yards need a little color. I also live in an area where somehow the woods have escaped construction. It’s always nice seeing what random changes pop up there. Of course, there are also people who clearly don’t like to (or are too busy) to work in their yards. And then there are those few yards that I have thrown seeds in, just because I felt sorry for them. I don’t know if the people who lived there wanted cosmos next to their mailbox, but they certainly got it. It looks better, anyway.
About half a mile from my house is a cemetery, which a few of my relatives are buried in. It’s pretty close to the road, and there are houses very close to it. We often think of cemeteries as cloistered, private things, but this is a literal landmark when people give directions. You can’t miss it. And I don’t really think this is a bad thing. I always pass it at least once when I go walk. It doesn’t really register anymore, given that I’ve been past it so many times. Somehow it feels as though a cemetery shouldn’t be allowed to intrude on the living world, given its purpose, but it’s just as much a part of the locale as the lottery store across the street (and yes, I have many times pictured a group of skeletons buying scratch offs. It’s very entertaining). It reminds me of a park, just sort of there, not at all like some other cemeteries in town.
I personally would love it cemeteries were parks, or more accurately conservatories for public land. Ride a bike over me, for all I care. I’m sure at some point in history everyone’s yard held a dead person, and isn’t that a lovely thought? I mean, consider how many people have come and gone. Been embodied and disembodied, as Uncle Morty would say. Next time you mow your yard, think about that. You could be running over some guy named Steve.
Being in such close proximity to a graveyard often makes me think about our culture’s perception and comfort level with death. You may think that’s morbid or weird, but I think having a healthy and positive outlook and understanding of death can have many benefits. After all, it is inevitable, and coming to terms with that rather than avoiding it seems like the better way to go. There is so much irrational fear of death and dying. Not to say that its entirely fun for all parties involved but given the inevitability, perhaps it’s pointless to be afraid of it. Some people seem to spend every waking minute worrying about it. I think we worry because we lack the understanding that people in previous generations had. The Victorians had home funerals and sometimes home burials. They saw up close and personal the death and dying process. Something you know nothing about and actively shield yourself from is easier to be afraid of, as opposed to something you are educated or more familiar with.
Most people don’t like to talk about it, of course. They don’t want to make a will or an advanced directive. Some don’t even tell their loved ones how they want to buried, or even if that’s what they want, which of course when the person passes, makes an already difficult time much more challenging. And it was preventable, had the deceased person not been so crippled by their fear of dying.
Well, there’s your daily dose of all things morbid and the macabre, something I pass every day, whether I think about it or not. I think it’s important to remember that, unfortunately, at some point we will all have to face the reality of death. That is out of our hands. But what is in our control is how we approach and deal with this reality and remember that it’s right there in front of us whether or not we choose to see it.
Jarad recently graduated from college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He is a fervent gardener and is fascinated by all related topics and has spent several years writing about this passion. He has been gardening for 6 years and believes that Nature is our greatest teacher. He majored in English with a concentration in literature and plans to pursue and master’s degree in Ecocriticism.