Have you ever wondered why people visit cemeteries? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different answers.
Take me. I never visit any of my relative’s graves. Oh sure, I think about my brother, grandparents, great-grandparents and other loved ones who have passed away, but , for me, visiting their graves doesn’t make me feel closer to them.
One of my co-workers, Jamella, is the complete opposite. She often visits her family’s graves. In fact, it’s a ritual that started when she was around 9-years-old. She’d ride along to the cemetery with her Aunt Margaret so they could pay their respects to her grandparents.
“It was something you did,” she says. “And when my aunt was still living, we would go to the cemetery frequently. We might be out running an errand and stop by the cemetery on the way home. We’d get out of the car and say a prayer. My aunt would say, ‘Hi Pops’ and as we pulled away, my aunt would blow her car horn.”
What makes Sullivan’s treks to the cemetery so convenient is her entire family is buried at the same location. “My parents and grandparents and all of their children are right together at Calvary Cemetery in the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville.”
Sometimes when she visits, she takes flowers. Other times it’s just to say hello or say a prayer.
“The second anniversary of my mom’s death was January 5th. I went to the cemetery that day and so did my siblings.”
Jamella says she was blessed with great parents. “Some of my friends didn’t have such a good relationship with their parents, but I think about them all the time,” she continues. “Sometimes I talk to them at home, I think it keeps their memory alive and makes me feel better. You feel closer when you go to the cemetery because their remains are there. I’m a spiritual person; I’m not a holy roller or a Bible thumper. I just believe there is a God and I believe He is good and it makes me feel closer to them.”
When Jamella was single, she had a dog named Sam that was like her child. “He was a Lab and weighed 85-90 pounds. When the day came that I had to put him down, I didn’t want to throw his remains in the garbage or bury him in my yard… so I had him cremated. I took his ashes to the cemetery where my parents are buried. My brother went with me and dug a small hole near my parent’s grave and we buried him there under some geranium I used as cover!”
When she visits the cemetery now, her husband Rick will sometimes accompany her. Like her aunt before her, she blows the horn as she’s pulling away from the family plot. “Rick hates it when I blow the horn. The first time I did it with him in the car, he was mortified,” she says with a laugh. “He thinks it’s being disrespectful and that I’m disturbing others. I’m like, ‘It’s just a horn honking… it’s not like I’m holding it down for five minutes.’ Besides, tooting the horn has become a tradition. It’s my way of saying, ‘See you next time.’ ”
Now she is continuing the family tradition of regular visits by taking her son to the cemetery. “He never says, ‘Mom let’s go by the cemetery.’ But I think he likes it when I take him with me. He was always close to his grandparents and I know he misses them too.”
Until next time…