Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cemeteries...They're not just for dead people anymore.

I love cemeteries.  Always have.  Which may seem weird or not.  Its not like I had a lifelong dream to be in the funeral business.  (I always wanted to be a rock star so I could be buried in a cemetery really early.  Ha ha.)  It wasn't even that I liked funerals.  As a matter of fact I avoided them when I was younger always making some excuse not to go to one.  In fact, I was usually on the road, but I now regret missing the funerals of some family members.

Where I grew up in Ohio there were many old cemeteries that were suitably eerie at night.  Cemeteries were good places to go for making out and getting high.  Scared and tipsy girls were girls that wanted to get close to you.  Always a good start.  Mainly though, I just liked how quiet and peaceful cemeteries were.  And I'm speaking as one who is not a camping or outdoorsy type person.  I like looking at the markers and reading the names and dates.  Especially now that a lot of markers have pictures on them. They have a really nice mausoleum in Ivy Lawn Memorial Park where they have a columbarium with windowed cremation niches.  You can see where families have set up little dioramas with photos, medals and other memorabilia along with the urn.  Santa Paula Cemetery has a section where they have folks that died in the mid 1800's.  For California that's an old cemetery.  Fascinating.

For me, the best part of the funeral service is after it's over (and all went well) and I can start to relax while everyone is chatting around the casket before going to the reception.  My associate and I will people watch and take notice of all the family dynamics.  It's also funny to watch women all dressed up walking through the grass as their high heels sink into the ground.  Didn't think of that when you got dressed this morning, did you, honey?  The exception to this tranquil revery is when it's really hot and all I want is for everyone in their summer frocks and short sleeved shirts to clear the hell out so I can get my dark-suited ass back in the air-conditioned hearse.

Memorial Day festivities at Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery.

This story featuring Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado highlights a direction I've been seeing for awhile.  Cemeteries are sprucing up and holding events to bring folks in to give them something to relate the grounds to other than the fact that their loved ones are under it.  As Crown Hill general manager Kevin Wolfe wonderfully puts it, "People come to cemeteries, and they are always looking down."  Why do you think most cemeteries all called memorial parks now?  (You'll never hear a professional refer to a graveyard.)   I must admit I miss seeing upright tombstones.  Most places require ground markers.  Easier for the groundskeepers, you see.  Anyway, jazz concerts, fireworks on Memorial Day and summer potlucks are all on tap at Crown Hill.

 Wee Kirk o' the Heather at Forest Lawn Glendale.

At Forest Lawn Glendale there is Wee Kirk o' the Heather chapel that has hosted weddings for decades.  When I was doing pre-need for Forest Lawn I met a couple who were married there and their funerals will both be done there.  Married and buried in the same place.  Sweet.

Johnny Ramone's Memorial at Hollywood Forever.

Hollywood Forever ("Resting place of Hollywood's Immortals") hosts movie nights.  My co-worker went to one a couple of weeks ago and saw North by Northwest.  They set up a huge screen outside right on the grounds.  He said it was fun with kind of a punk crowd atmosphere.

I think this is a good trend.  Most of us will take our eternal rest in a cemetery.  Shouldn't you get to know and maybe even enjoy the place now while you can?

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