One time many moons ago, a friend of mine told me that she used to run in the local cemetery until ghosts started following her home and depressing her. I listened to her telling me this, thinking of her running shoe treads yanking home a tattered ghost, who then sat in the kitchen, asking for a cup of coffee it could never really drink.
I've walked in cemeteries all over the world, and no ghosts have ever followed me home, at least, none that left a mark. It is possible I have one right here on my couch watching me write because yesterday, I went to Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, and walked all over the dead.
This is a strange cemetery. There is a perimeter ring of neglected and often derelict grave sites, headstones overturned, moved, cracked, and abandoned by loved ones. There was only one site upon which someone had planted naked ladies and left plastic flowers. I can't remember the dead one's name, but it was remarkable for the brilliant pink in the field of messed up stones and dead, dry grass and strewn eucalyptus leaves and pods.
In the middle of the cemetery, most everything else is green and lush. There are sections that cause pause--the whole feng shui based section. Then there are the tombs and edifices folks left to mark their lives. Cogswell had some serious Freudian issues, and Crocker--well, he owned a bank. Big, big, big markers. Here I am, and wasn't I special?
Well, dudes, you are both dead and your little dogs, too. But thanks. It's nice to look at, all the same.
My younger son and I walked the whole cemetery yesterday. He'd been there many times before, so he gave me the tour. We hit all the major sights, stomping around all over the tops of people's graves. At least I was.
"Mom," he said.
"What?" I said, walking all over Irma and Charles.
He shrugged and walked all over them, too. The thing is, they aren't there. Their bones aren't either, at this point. There is nothing left but a chunk of granite and some memories--maybe not even those because even those with the memories have long since passed, Irma dying in 1876.
We want to leave something behind, and I don't really understand the practice. I don't want my loved ones going to see a chunk of granite that cost a lot in order to remember me. I'd rather they sat outside on the deck and had a cocktail. I looked around the massive acreage of the cemetery, and though wow, this is a cool park, except for the dead people.
But the dead people do leave something even for those of us who can't even remember them. The headstones have stories, and I liked thinking about them. The wives who outlived their husbands by 40 years; the mothers and children buried in the same plot; the Civil War Veterans; the veterans in general.
I'm not against stories, but maybe there is another way to find them. Maybe we don't have to take up so many acres to put ourselves back into the place we came from. Maybe we don't have to hold the land hostage because ultimately, the we will all forget each other, one by one, just like that. Poof!
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org