Cemeteries. Every city has one. They are mysterious, historic, haunting and, to me, fascinating. I developed a fondness for cemeteries as a boy.
Now whenever I’m out of town, I always make it a point to visit a cemetery. To me, they are better than any mountain range, skyline or other popular tourist attraction. They are hidden treasures containing a wealth of information about communities and the people who lived there.
Chances are you have visited a cemetery at some time in your life to pay your respects to a family member or friend, and perhaps you too appreciate the stories represented among the tombstones and monuments.
My travels take me to all over the South and Midwest – and sometimes further North – so I have decided to start documenting my cemetery visits with a series of photos in a Sunday feature.
This week’s cemetery is the Meditation Garden at Graceland Mansion in Memphis, TN. Well, it’s not an actual cemetery but it is the final resting place of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, and three of his family members.
I don’t know much about Elvis Presley other than the titles of a few of his hit songs (Love Me Tender, Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock) and that he died at the young age in the late ’70s. So it was fun and interesting to learn more about him and family, the Graceland Mansion and his adoring fans.
The most intriguing piece of information I discovered about Elvis Presley was he had an identical twin brother who was delivered stillborn about 30 minutes before Elvis on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, MS. Can you imagine what the world would have been like had there been two Elvis Presleys?
I also learned that Elvis Presley was originally buried in Memphis’ Forest Hill Cemetery but after a failed break-in at his mausoleum, Presley’s father Vernon petitioned the city to change the zoning laws so Elvis and his immediate family members could be buried on the grounds of Graceland.
Meditation Garden serves as the burial site for Elvis, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and his grandmother, Minnie Mae. There’s also a marker for his stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon.
Nearly 40 years after his death, fans still gather by the thousands to honor Presley during Elvis Week which celebrates his life and music. This year as an added treat, the U.S. Postal Service will unveil a new Elvis Presley Forever Stamp at the Mansion on the morning of Wednesday, August 12th. Priscilla Presley will join Postmaster General Megan Brennan at the must-see event which is open to the public.
Although many Elvis fans take the paid tour of his 23-room mansion, the grave sites of Elvis and his family members can be visited for free daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
For more information on Elvis Presley, Graceland Mansion, Elvis Week or the new Elvis Presley Forever Stamp, visit www.graceland.com.
Do you have any Elvis memories? Perhaps a favorite song or movie or a concert you might have attended? If so, I’d like to hear them.
And now I leave you with the epitaph on Elvis’ grave penned by his father, Vernon Presley.
Until next time….
Inscription on Elvis’ grave by Vernon Presley:
He was a precious gift from God
We cherished and loved dearly
He had a God-given talent that he shared
with the world. And without a doubt,
He became most widely acclaimed;
capturing the hearts of young and old alike.
He was admired not only as an entertainer,
But as the great humanitarian that he was;
For his generosity, and his kind feelings
For his fellow man.
He revolutionized the field of music and
Received it’s highest awards.
He became a living legend in his own time,
Earning the respect and love of millions.
God saw that he needed some rest and
Called him home to be with Him.
We miss you, Son and Daddy. I thank God
that he gave us you as our son.