I’ve never been particularly fascinated by cemeteries. I’ve seen beautiful ones—Paris, Savannah, Washington—but I never sought them out. In fact, aside from those that were proclaimed beautiful and worthy of a visit by some reputable source, I avoided them altogether. And then I got older, and people I loved started to die. Friends, too young, taken by cancer. My father, perhaps of “the age,” but nevertheless I wasn’t ready. These jolts, these shifts in the tectonic plates of ourselves, change how we see many things. For me it changed how I see the places where these people are often “laid to rest.”
I’m not big on the euphemisms associated with death. “Laid to rest” is one of them. And yet, when I see the cemeteries of small French towns, the idea of rest seems appropriate. There is something truly restful about them, and whatever I once thought of as “creepy,” nonexistent. Perhaps the phrase has a double edge. The ones we loved are laid to remain. But we, who visit them, are given a peaceful place to rest with our meditations and feelings. The restfulness is for the living and dead. A place of quiet, calm.
The cemeteries here are beautiful. Filled with old stone, intricate ironwork. Porcelain flowers that have long lost their color, and in their decline gained a poetic beauty. The word “hush” comes to mind. Hush. Hush.