I consider myself a people person. But sometimes I just don’t want to deal with anyone. I want to zone out and be alone with my thoughts. I often go for a walk to “escape,” but that’s difficult to do when you constantly encounter people on the trails or the sidewalks around town. So to avoid human interaction, I head to a place where I’m ironically surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people. I head to the cemetery.
The cemetery in town, like most others, is a tranquil, beautifully-haunting place. It’s not just the go-to place for my walks; it’s also THE place to be for local wildlife. Turkeys, squirrels, and deer frolic together on the cemetery grounds, like a Disney movie with tombstones. This place of death is full of life.
My imagination runs wild when I zone out. I pretend the tunes coming from my earbuds are the soundtrack to my life (we’ve all pretended we’re in a movie when the music hits, right?). Every time I pass through here, it seems like a certain song will play at the exact moment I need it. “Spirits” by the Strumbellas. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. “Ophelia” by the Lumineers. “Best of You” by Foo Fighters. The fortuitous hits continue, and I feel the mojo pulsing through my veins. The sun is shining, the robins are chirping, and I can hear my heart beat. This place of death is full of life.
I consider this cemetery to be a challenge because, just like life itself, it’s not a flat, straight path. The narrow, paved road twists and turns around curves, over a small creek, and up a steep hill. As I charge steadily up the incline, I take time to look around and scan the headstones. I look to my left and see an entire family at rest together. I look to my right and see an infant who was only here long enough to be named. I look to my left again and see a young man who left home to go fight in a war that was anything but civil. Every name etched in stone has a story. This place of death is full of life.
I study the tombstones on every trip, and I can’t help but notice the wear and tear. Some have toppled over. Some are cracked. Some names are undecipherable thanks to years and years of exposure to the elements. Does anyone remember these nameless souls? Are they forgotten, lost to the annals of time? For that matter, what about the men and women who still do have legible names on their stones? Did they do enough to be remembered, long after they took up permanent residence here in this place of eternal rest?
Inevitably, I start applying those questions to my own existence. Am I doing enough with my life? Am I doing enough to help others? Am I making a difference? Will someone care enough to wipe the bird crap off my tombstone 200 years from now? These are the things I think about.
My determination has steadily increased over the past decade, thanks to these deep thoughts (and also because of a missing body part you can read about here). I detest laziness. I don’t sleep in. I do my best to avoid regret. To quote the theme song from the sitcom Just the Ten of Us, “I’m doin’ it the best I can.”
We all hit tough spots in our lives. Sometimes the will to be productive just isn’t there. I get it. But that shouldn’t stop us from living life to the fullest. If you’re stuck in the mud, try treading the hallowed ground of your local graveyard. Let the place of death fill you with life.