Thursday, November 01, 2007

Memento Mori II: All Saints Day

Today marks the anniversary of my first posting on this blog. On November 1, 2006, I wrote "Memento Mori," in which I talked about our South Louisiana custom of visiting the cemeteries and remembering our dead on this day, All Saints Day. In keeping with our custom, I plan to visit my family's plot in Metairie Cemetery, one of the most beautiful and historic cemeteries in New Orleans. Buried in our plot are my maternal grandparents; my brother and a cousin, both of whom died in their early 20s; several uncles, an aunt, and other more distant relatives.

Setting aside any religious overtones, I find the practice of remembering our dead soothing and comforting. It's good to revive memories of those we loved. And don't we all hope we, too, will be remembered when we're gone? I shed a few tears when I follow the yearly rite, but tears are good for the soul.

For more information about New Orleans' cemeteries, visit "New Orleans Cemetery Tours" on my friend Sharon Keating's New Orleans for Visitors blog. The photo above is by Sharon Keating.

(Oh yeah, another good thing about All Saints Day is that I get the day off work.)

12 comments:

Lisa said...

I have a quirk that a lot of my friends and relatives think is a bit odd -- I really like to visit cemeteries when I'm in a different part of the country or another country altogether and you're right -- some of the coolest of them all are in New Orleans Parish.

Lisa said...

Oh, and Happy Anniversary!

Charles Gramlich said...

I usually find visiting my father's grave quite soothing. Not sure why, and sometimes I do produce a tear or two. But I'm also comforted.

Sphinx Ink said...

Lisa, I too like to visit cemeteries in other places. I'm fascinated by the ways we remember our dead. And thanks for the anniversary wishes.

Charles, your experience reflects my own feelings.

Shauna Roberts said...

Here in Riverside (CA) they have taken the traditional Mexican le dia de los muertos (which I believe involves visiting cemeteries as families, as in New Orleans) and turned it into more of a community festival. I didn't go, but apparently people set up displays downtown to memorialize their dead loved ones and people strolled about to admire the displays.

Lana said...

Dad taught me (while I was very young,) that the body in the ground is just a shell--the meaningful part(s) of an individual have gone elsewhere. After their funerals, he never visited his parents' graves. To date, I've followed his pattern. The only difference being that I sometimes honor them during my Samhain rituals. It feels more personal to me, which is as it should be.

cs harris said...

I've always been fascinated by cemeteries and have roamed them since I was a kid. But I find visits to the graves of loved ones more troubling--probably because I didn't grow up in New Orleans. It's a nice custom--our modern society hides death so effectively that when it does intrude on our lives (as it inevitably will), it's a shock.

Sphinx Ink said...

Shauna, sounds like the Dia de Los Muertos festival would be fascinating to see. I guess the similarities to the South Louisiana customs are derived from the common Catholic heritage of both places.

Lana, I agree with your father that the remains interred in cemeteries are only shells. Perhaps what I like about the cemetery is partly that it seems to me a sacred space, because it's reserved for remembrance of the dead. I also love the beauty and quaintness of many of the monuments at Metairie Cemetery and other old cemeteries. I don't know whether I'd feel the same way about the type of cemetery that has nothing but plaques flat on the ground marking the graves. Perhaps I would. The way I feel at a cemetery is a function of what's inside my mind more than what's in the outside world, eh?

C.S., I think deaths of loved ones are hard for any of us to deal with at any time. Perhaps being brought up accustomed to the rituals of the farewell that a funeral represents makes such losses a bit easier to deal with.

Lana said...

My mom used to love perusing old cemeteries, too (now that I think about it.) There are some really old ones up in the Niagara region (some even older than the War of 1812, during which the Canadians kicked the Americans the hell OUT.) Oops...sorry...sometimes my pro-Canada side sneaks up on me like that...
I hear what you're saying, at any rate. I was so amazed at some of the monuments at Forest Lawn (a historic cemetery in the Buffalo area & resting place of a US President,) that I spent a day there, just taking pictures. One of my fave pix of all time is from that day. (They're here if you're interested; http://www.angelfire.com/ak/ravenmyst/photos3.html )

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy Hallinan said...

It had somehow escaped my attention that you were down in the Metairie area, one of my favorite places in America. I hope you and yours are well on the road to full recovery; prior to Katrina I visited New Orleans and other places in Southern Louisiana five or six times in a three-to-four year period. To tell you the truth, I haven't had the nerve to go back, but I will be there in July on the tour for THE FOURTH WATCHER. Maybe we can meet up then.

Tim Hallinan

Sphinx Ink said...

Tim, I'm glad to hear you love our area. Compared to New Orleans, Metairie was relatively unscathed by Katrina. There was wind damage and some flooding, but nothing on the scale of most of New Orleans. (I was very fortunate to sustain no storm damage to my home.)

There is much to be sad about still--many parts of New Orleans will never be the same, and many irreplaceable landmarks are gone--but there is much to be glad about. We have a long road to recovery still ahead of us, but mostly we try to look on the bright side.

I'm delighted to hear you will get here on your book tour next summer. I assume the publisher arranges these things for you, but if you need suggestions for bookstores in which to sign, there is a wonderful independent bookseller uptown who puts on great signing events, if you like to also speak to audiences about your writing. In addition, I can promise to show up at your event(s) with a crew of writer friends in tow. I can't guarantee they'll buy your book, but they'll plump up attendance and be interested in any wisdom you want to impart about writing.