Thursday, November 15, 2007

Friday Cemetery Blogging

Isn't this a great tomb? I didn't take this photo, my friend Liz in Budapest did. She knew I like mourner statues. Don't you love the cracked stones and the ivy growing out of it? I thought this was really cool. She sent me another gravestone with a mourner. When I saw this one, I thought about something interesting...


In the United States, we have lots of statues in cemeteries, but they are nearly always angels. (With a few snobbishly aloof Jesuses thrown in for good measure.) They are mourning angels that try to look vaguely upset by the absence of the loved one, but they generally succeed only in looking a bit surly or perhaps intestinally disturbed. I can't remember seeing a headstone here that conveys this level of hopelessness or despair. I think it's because generally we Americans don't really believe in death - not really - so we don't want some stone chick perpetually wailing over Aunt Eunice's mouldering remains. It makes us...uncomfortable.

I know there are also characteristics of Hungarian culture that account for the difference as well, but I can't really speak to that. What do you think?

11 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

I think that Americans, generally, believe in death if it's tidy. We wear the veils at the funerals to cover the smeared mascara. Our funerals are ordered and follow certain guidelines. Even our memorial services for non-believers are nicely structured. We dab our eyes prettily. We give our sincere "I'm so sorry's". And we do not fart at these occasions. At least not audibly. We are a very tidy people.

Personally I like the way the gypsies do it: They cry and wail and tear their clothing at births, in sorrow for the life of suffering the innocent baby faces. And at funerals they have a huge party with dancing, drinking and feasting in celebration of their loved one's escape to a far better and happier place.

I've rambled. Sorry. It's the booze talking. Scary considering I haven't been drinking.

annie said...

I think the question you raise is very interesting though I have no answer for you.

I think I'd still rather see the angels and Jesus statues. The perpetually mourning statues are beautiful in an eerie way, but still...

Patti said...

Interesting question. I come from a Native American family, on my mom's side, I don't count my dad's because he was pretty much disowned for marrying an injun. The Mohawk graveyard is in between cow pastures on Cornwall Island in Qu├ębec (we say kay-beck), and it looks like a cow pasture. There are no stones or decorations. When there is a death, everyone takes turns burying the loved one with shovels. Once the burial is over, there is no visiting. In fact, I don't even remember where my grandmother is buried, and that's how it should be. It's not because we don't believe in death that we don't decorate the graves, it's just one of those taboos. I think it's because we are allowed 10 days to mourn. After that, if you are sad, the loved one can't settle down in heaven because they are worrying about you. When my dad died, we had him cremated and we scattered his ashes on the lake. He didn't want a gravestone or even a grave site. I guess if everyone had these traditions, you wouldn't have one of your creative outlets!

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I like the idea of a celebration of death like PG explains (poor girl, not hitting the sauce again). But I also love what Patti writes about.

I want a mourning cow at my graveside.

jonboy said...

I think it's partly because our society doesn't really mourn. We are just egotistical enough to think that we all go to heaven when we die, so there is nothing to worry about. I'm constantly astounded by the number of people who proclaim that their loved one 9is "in a better place" when you know darn good and well this person was never a Christian. We fail to understand the finality of certain situations.

Bunny Bunster said...

I want Rock music played, loudly, at my visitation. I want it to be a party. Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" must must must be played. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" must be sang.
I've had a great life and I, personally, want to go out with a bang!!
All of my friends and family member know of my wishes.

There is something, as Annie said, about the mourning statues that are eerily beautiful. Perhpas how they captured the grief so disctinctly make us Americans uncomfortable.

Rev Kim said...

When I was doing my hospital chaplaincy, a person died who was part of another faith tradition - I feel badly that I can't now remember which one. Buddhist? Hindu? Anyway, I'll always remember that her family and friends gathered in her room and for hours after her death chanted her into the afterlife. It was lovely. I loved that the hospital (which was Roman Catholic) was respectful of this belief and allowed this to happen - especially when at the hospital it was all about the availability of beds.

Dijea said...

Every so often, I put on The The's Love is stronger than Death and just remember the people I've lost.

I think that our culture is very unemotional concerning death. More somber than anything. I appreciate the wailing, but for me peronally I like the celebration of a person's life and remembering the joy that person brought to my world than the dispair over losing them.

I want a party with my favorite foods, my picture on the wall, the alcohol flowing and a story out of everyone about how fabulously wonderful, funny or annoying I could be. That would make me happy.

zorra said...

Bunny Bunster: "Love Lies Bleeding/Funeral for a Friend" would be awesome. You should have been at the funeral I attended recently, where the casket was carried out of the chapel to "On Top of the World" by Cheap Trick, and we mourners were gesturing to the funeral directors to turn it up! Which they did! I would like to think that our deceased friend (who was a Christian) got to see that, and was laughing.

We are taught to button up our grief in public. But not so much in private, and I miss the traditions I grew up with in a small town, where after hearing of a death, friends immediately began dropping by with food, and family and friends would sit around the house for two or three days, eating, crying, laughing, eating some more, sharing stories. Here in the transient 'burbs, there's generally a small reception at the church after the service--which is nice, and appreciated, but it ain't the same.

Gator World!! said...

More than likely I will be in charge of my Mom's head stone and I tell you what it will not be a mourning cow. No Ma'am! No Ma'am!

tracy said...

Wow! These are awesome!!