My fondness for cemeteries is always heightened by admiration for their artful and natural beauties in the wonderful array of stonework and iron, stained glass and sculpture that intermingle with splendid displays of wild or planted flowers, trees, grasses, and moss that may be meticulously designed and tended or equally lovely in their rampant and neglected states. I love, too, a cemetery’s history and mystery; the stories both told and untold that rise up from every grave fill me with awestruck wonder as I perambulate and read, rest and imagine. The silence, punctuated by bird sounds, by wind and rain, and sometimes by the talk of others wandering through, gives me room for my thoughts to roam while my eyes are distracted and enchanted by the views.
And though I don’t necessarily wish to keep them company in a permanent way anytime soon, I find the dead in a cemetery very accepting, even friendly, company, so I am rarely melancholy in a graveyard, mostly meditative. And occasionally, amused. I especially like the headstones and monuments that have either their own sense of humor or have in one way or another become more entertaining than they were originally intended to be. I have even devised an artistic category for the rare few sculptures and markers that are evidently the work of good-hearted but slightly under-talented designers and artists, whom some might charitably name folk artists but whose misbegotten and unintentionally horrifying or hilarious (horlairifying?) tributes I dub not so much Folk Art as WTFolk Art.
Whether it’s my irreverence in the face of death’s inevitability or the inspiration of such kindhearted awfulness, I do find that sometimes I can’t help writing epitaphs, myself. Even my own epitaph, or variations thereon, because no one’s better equipped to deride my quaint and odd-acious self than I am, after all. Plus, if they’re terrible verses, I won’t be around to be annoyed by them once I’m dead. Sorry, the rest of you.
How about one for the Sparks family vault?
Here lies Richard in the dark
For having died, he’s lost his Spark,
And yet with Kathryn still he’s yoked,
Even when buried, for she croaked.
But wait! There’s more…a little something just for me:
Who lies below tucked in this bed
With hollow bones and empty head
Could not have left us fast enough;
Perhaps a diamond in the rough,
But her potential, though so pretty,
Stayed all unmet, and more’s the pity.