A Renaissance for cemeteries?



I was out at our hometown non-denominational cemetery, Kinkead Cemetery, on Memorial Day.  It’s the large cemetery on the north end of our community where I ride my bike through on Summer Saturday mornings.  It was named after Alexander and William Kinkead, the founders of our city, Alexandria.


I went out there as I do every Memorial Day to pay my respects to my relatives, including my mom and dad, who are buried and currently fill 15 of the 16 graves, in the family plot. . . .obviously purchased in the 1870’s because some of the deaths date back that far.


It’s a pretty serene place, but it was bustling with activity on Memorial Day where family members were tending to the graves and planting flowers to honor their loved ones also.  I walked through the cemetery and as a community funeral director many of the headstones brought back memories to me of funerals that I had conducted or people that I had known.  Our little cemetery is burial ground to two United States Senators, one who also was Governor of Minnesota, and another grave marks the final resting place of a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.


On Memorial Day I also saw this article about the interment of the cremated remains of movie star Anne Heche.  Ms. Heche died last August but was interred on Mother’s Day, May 15, of this year.  What struck me about reading the article was what one of her son’s said.  He is quoted as saying,  “Hollywood Forever (Cemetery)is a living place, where people attend movies and concerts and other events.”


After reading that I couldn’t help but think that my earliest deceased relatives in America were buried in a cemetery probably because it was a serene, dignified place. . . . a hundred and fifty years later it appears some people are placing their loved ones in a cemetery because it is a “living place”.  Those thoughts are a little bit contradictory, but I think both are correct and in some ways give an idea on how a cemetery can fulfill more needs to a community than just a field of death. . . .such as providing a beautiful place to ride my bike through on Saturday mornings. . or hold outdoor movies and concerts. . .or other community events.


We’ve published in Funeral Director Daily many articles over the years about the financial plight some cemteries, especially those in rural areas with few interments, are having.  There’s been lots of articles about no one left to take over non-profit cemeteries when the last burial has taken place. . . . so there are some issues with cemeteries that are out there and need a solution.


However, in communities that are large enough to have park-like space for their cemeteries, I think that there is real opportunity where “activity” can increase the desire for families to want to “memorialize” their loved ones in a cemetery. . . .much like the Heche family chose to do.


Serenity is great, but in today’s world survivors seem to also want “connection”.  I think that is why cremation jewelry and solidified remains, and even cremation tattoos are becoming increasingly popular.  Those who have lost loved ones just don’t want to lose that “connection” with them.  I also think that cemeteries can do both — give activity for connection and serenity for reflection — on the same property at different times.


If you are involved with a cemetery, maybe there is a starting point to see how community involvement can build that connection.


Related —  Here is a very good article about how the cemetery in Easton, Pennsylvania is “reimagining its future in order to preserve its past”

RelatedDeath education at Green-Wood:  A Day in the life of a Gravedigger.  Patch

Related —  General Greene visits, Saturday scavenger hunts, all part of Cemetery Awareness Month.  Warwick Beacon (RI)

RelatedBook Review.  “How we care for our dead bodies, or don’t”.  The Christian Century


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