CITIES OF THE DEAD

“My relationship with death remains the same- I’m strongly against it.” Woody Allen
While I would have to agree with Woody on this sentiment, I will also have to confess a longstanding affection for cemeteries and funerary art and architecture. I find these “Cities of the Dead” to be quiet, calm and ultimately fascinating places to spend a day in peaceful contemplation and the architecture, art and poetry found along their winding paths offers a window on the culture, styles and attitudes of a bygone time.
From the mysteries of Stonehenge to the grandeur of the Pyramids to the seemingly endless acres of white crosses in Normandy, civilizations have marked the passage of human life with physical reminders, both great and small. Be it a rough wooden tablet, or an ornate mausoleum
of the finest white marble, it proclaims to the living world that a living soul once walked this earth- and was loved.
Here in Washington, D.C. we have many reminders of our national legacy of political power and commercial and creative contribution. Arlington National Cemetery, final resting place to our military’s bravest heroes, Congressional Cemetery, home to many famous but also many forgotten politicians, or Oak Hill and Rock Creek Cemeteries -graced with beautiful landscaping and numerous works of compelling and poignant works of memorial art by masters such as Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
In death, as in life, styles and attitudes are constantly in a state of change and revision. When traveling, I always make it a point to try and save a few minutes to visit the most interesting cemetery I can find in a given city or town. It is surprising to see the differences regionally and by era in the style, materials and sentiments expressed toward the dearly departed. There are definite trends in headstones and crypts every 20-40 years just as in clothing and hairstyles.
Sadly the look these days is away from Egyptian revival and closer to a stylistic equivalent to reality TV. Just think of someone’s ancestor’s trying to make sense of their great grandmother’s “Precious Moments” tombstone! OMG! OMG! What are we coming to?
Thank heaven we can still count on Zombies to take a stand for some degree of propriety and decorum in Angelic Acres. Just remember, no running! No running! Keep your pace to a shuffle.

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They’re coming to get you, Barbara!

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