Last summer I interviewed my friend David Moore for a magazine piece about Oakland Cemetery, and it occurred to me recently that it would make a great blog for the Atlanta Area Mom's Blog. So I wrote A Fun Time at the Boneyard.
Oakland Cemetery is an amazing place. It's a great place to take children. There are lovely plants, shrubs, and trees. There are historical figures buried there. It's a garden cemetery. [Click on that last link to see some lovely photos.]
The Historic Oakland Foundation has done an incredible job of restoring Oakland.
The first time I experienced the death of anyone close to me was in 1972 when my grandfather [bob Hasty] died. Mother ran by the funeral home and left us in the car and we crept in and accidentally saw Papa in the casket, something Mom had wanted to avoid. It was both good and bad, that sight. It was bad because I sitll remember the shock of seeing him, a cold white corpse. It was good in the sense that it brought closure to his death, for me. There was no pretending he wasn't gone.
It was also good because I immediately realized that I never wanted to go to another "viewing" of a dead body as long as I lived. Now, I have gone to viewings since then, but I try very hard to avoid looking at the body.
I just think looking at dead people is creepy. I hate remarks like "She looks so lifelike!"
No, the corpse isn't "lifelike." It's just an empty shell. The soul has gone on. The dead body is just a vessel, that's all. The spark of life has changed into a different kind of energy, spirit.
But back to Oakland.
When it was started, 150+ years ago, death was much more an everyday occurrence. People were dying all over the place. Illness carried off whole families sometimes. War certainly reaped huge crops of corpses.
I don't mean to make light of death. It was just much more a part of life than it is now.
I mean, if you like cop shows or medical shows on TV, you see a lot of death but it's all fake.
When my mom was little, a relative died on the train tracks and was beheaded. I think he had possibly been drinking and chosen the tracks as an unfortunate napping spot. Mom faked a stomachache so she could miss school and go to the funeral. She was hoping the head would be in a separate casket from the body. The way Mom tells the story is highly droll.
Anyway, if I had younger kids, I'd pack a picnic one fine day and take them to Oakland, and take a tour and eat a sandwich. There's a self-guided tour. It's a beautiful, peaceful place.
Oakland is a microcosm of history.