Cemetery Walkers

I love cemeteries.

I love the statuary, the history…the quiet.  I love spending the day winding through them to read the stories of the people buried there.  I love the introspection and the reminder that life is short.

When I was little my parents would stop at every forgotten cemetery they saw to let my sister and I tromp through them.  By the time I was 12 my walls were lined with butcher-paper tracings of old tombstones and epitaphs.

My husband thinks I’m excruciatingly weird and would sooner have his testicles removed than spend a whole day exploring old gravestones and repiecing the lives of the people beneath them.

That’s why I take Hailey now. 

It’s a little unsettling to see her giggling and hiding behind the tombstones or feeding the stone dogs guarding the graves but to her it’s a giant walking park, filled with angels and trees and benches.  She doesn’t know it’s a cemetery at all. 

That’s why it freaks me out a little when she tiptoes up to look into a tomb and then happily exclaims “Mommy, there are peoples in there!  Hi peoples!”


“You see the peoples, mommy?”

“No, baby.  That’s just an empty house.”

She looks again and wrinkles her forehead as if I’m messing with her.  

It kind of freaks me out…but not enough to stop taking her. 

After all, without her, who else will talk to the angels?


64 thoughts on “Cemetery Walkers

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Beautiful pictures. I don’t mind “exploring” but it has to be 100% daylight with no chance of darkness or a storm or anything.

  2. I knew I loved you, Jenny!

    I love cemeteries. I had my first kiss in a cemetery and I have pictures of New Orleans cemeteries throughout my upstairs hall and bathroom.

    And “hello, peoples?” Kinda freaky, but kinda cool.

  3. What?!?!

    That’s WEIRD!?!?!

    I always tour graveyards! In Boston that was a featured tour! I have loads of photos of graveyards. I love reading about the people, imagining, etc. I think it’s a good tribute.

    GORGEOUS photos.

  4. Wow, those photos are both beautiful and haunting (aptly enough). I too find a certain peace and mystic in cemetaries.

    There are so many wonderfully old and historical cemetaries in Philadelphia, you and Hailey would be in heaven.

  5. Oh, I don’t know where to start. I, too, love cemeteries. I have friends who “live” there and visit them on occasion. I have played tag in the dark in cemeteries and helped a friend out who fell into an open grave (burial scheduled for the next day). It was always very natural for me to be there – after all, cemeteries are for the living. The dead don’t really care.

    Hailey is gifted if she can see the “peoples”. Or hear them. It’s not always a bad thing, you know.

    And your photos leave me breathless.

  6. I take The Ladies to cemetaries as well. There’s one on the way to the pool that has graves dating back to the 1830s and beyond–some are so old that they are all but worn away. The Ladies love to explore, look at the monuments, play hide and seek.

    Regan, the first time we went, with no idea what a cemetary was, told me it was “the ghost house.”

  7. That’s awesome. The photos are amazing.

    Aren’t those moments of “Are you seeing something I’m not seeing?” kind of unsettling? They are just so open at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were aware of things the rest of us lost long ago.

  8. Beautiful pictures! It is wonderful that you are able to share this with her.

  9. Gorgeous pictures. Your child is such a little fairy, I wouldn’t be surprised if she knew.

    I remember as a child, a babysitter once took me for a picnic in a cemetary not far from our house that overlooks a valley, and we made rubbings of some of the designs, too. it was such an interesting, different trip, it always stood out in my mind.

  10. Gorgeous, Jenny.

    And cemetaries (the old twisted path hilly kind) were the best place for picnics.

    People are often so silly about death.

  11. Whenever I have told someone that my family did grave rubbings on our vacations, people act like it is the most bizarre thing they’ve ever heard. Nice to know it wasn’t just my family. One of my favorite places in Rhode Island is a cemetary. It is one of the few things I miss about no longer living in Providence.

  12. Children have a connection to other worlds that we lose as an adult. Besides, Hailey is an exceptionally brillant child and I would have no doubt she sees other people. And there is nothing wrong with going through cemetaries…..they are a connection to our past. It is amazing what you can learn from them.

  13. i used to have picnics in cemetaries. i loved that. i haven’t done that in a long time and you make me want to bring M out and do it now. so thank you for that.

    there is something incredibly poetic about this post, sister. i really liked it. i read it in my reader three times today before coming over to tell you so.

  14. Although we are not religious folks, my hubby and I both agree; children see and talk to spirits/angels. And I’m almost positive my littlest one at the ripe old age of 4 mos, was telling me how to save the world.

    Unfortunately, we adults are so far removed from that innocence that we cannot understand what babies are “jabbering” about.

  15. What sweet pics! Especially the last one.

    Okay I don’t think you are weird but I wouldn’t go. Its like I can feel the spirits when I go and it freaks me out just a bit too much.

    But, to read it through your eyes, wow, it sounds like a neat adventure.

  16. I’m a genealogist at night, so cemetaries, their inhabitants, and their histories are second-nature to me. They’re not meant to be scary or depressing, but peaceful and celebratory. I’m glad you took your daughter to one. That last picture is priceless!

  17. that is precious. i love the photos…

    i like cemeteries too. i used to take my bible to one here in town and read…seemed to be the only place it was quiet enough and just i don’t know, seemed to make more sense.

    you would love the one in merkel…now that’s some OLD history there..

  18. The pictures are amazingly beautiful. How wonderful that you have a little one who can see the “peoples”. If it weren’t for the wee ones, I wouldn’t know that Jesus has green eyes. When my daughter, around 4 at the time, saw several paintings of Jesus with blue eyes, she informed me that they were wrong ’cause when she saw Him, His eyes were green. Amazing children, they are.

  19. I love cemeteries too. When the kids were little I would take them to “visit” the grave of the great-grandfather. They didn’t think it was strange either.

  20. You forgot me!! You forgot me!! Bethany and I wanna go!!

    Okay, I promise I’ll be quiet. I can’t speak for Bethany, though…

  21. Hello,(visiting from Mama Drama) I rather like cemeteries too. We live about a block and a half from a cemetery. When my children were little, we took walks and had picnics in the cemetery. Years ago when I was a child, my parents would stop at old country cemeteries to look at the old gravestones. We would always try to find the oldest stone in the graveyard.

    Interesting that so many people have this quiet affinity. Your pictures are beautiful.

  22. My cousin and I saw peoples all of the time when we were little, and even when we were not so little. We lived together in a house and we kept having experiences. I would mostly wake up in the night and see someone by my bed (and scream because I hate when people watch me sleep). My cousin claims she felt like someone was holding her down one night. There were a lot of other issues with that house, too many to get into in comments.

  23. The pictures are gorgeous!!!!

    Kevin often tells me that I am obsessed with the dead. I would love to go visit the old cemeteries from the Civil War and around that time frame. You can’t help but wonder about who the person was who is buried there.

  24. Those photos have an ethereal beauty. Have you been to the Key West cemetery? It’s beautiful and quirky. There’s the headstone of the hypochondriac that reads, “I told you I was sick” or the one of a cheating husband who’s wife put “At least I know where he’s sleeping tonight.” It’s fantastic! Also? WOW to the Sixth Sense thing Hailey has going on.

  25. Jenny, never discourage Hailey from saying Hi to the peoples!! She is just seeing the others that most of us forgot how to see as we grew up and out of childhood, mostly becuase we were told they didn’t exist. But they do and they are here with us each and every day! I love that last pic…. can I have a copy!??

  26. When we were in New Orleans about ten years ago, we took a cemetery tour, and I did get a feeling of peace there, so I sort of know what you are talking about. We don’t have “pretty” cemeteries here in SoCal.

    And yes, the photos are lovely.

  27. When Gabi was little she would go into Marc’s office to talk to “Daddy’s Grandpa”. Very sweet. Samuel still gets excited when we go to the cemetery. We have to drive a ways though, since there are NO cemeteries, or even funeral homes in our town. Wouldn’t want to bring any depressing stuff into Stepford Land you know.

  28. Seriously? I though I was the only one who was taken to old ass cemeteries as a kid. As a teen, I though my dad and step-mom were freaks because of it, but now I kind of like it.

    A little scary about Hailey, but kids still see things that we have been trained not to see.

  29. I’ve had many a date in a cemetery – great excuse to hold on tight!! And tombstones make great cocktail tables!!

  30. Too sweet! You must be a fan of the movie, Harold and Maude. Though I don’t know if your penchant for cemeteries extends to funerals? 🙂

  31. While I have to say I don’t go out of my way to go to cemetaries, I am definitely fascinated by them when I happen to be in one. Something about reading all of those tombstones and wondering what the people were like. I can see why you’re drawn to them.

    Also, I love the pictures you took.

  32. Amber, I’m not a huge fan of funerals but I am a huge fan of Harold and Maude. It’s on my top 100.

    Sally, “tombstones make great cocktail tables!” You are like the creepiest Martha Stewart ever. And I love you for it.

  33. I also have always had a fascination with cemetaries, and the older the better. One thing that always shocked me when I was younger was how many people back in the day would lose their little ones. The tiny little markers would be like a magnet and I would spend hours there when I could. My boyfriend at the time thought I was one strange cookie. Beautiful pic of Hailey btw.

  34. There’s a beautiful one in Park City Utah that made me cry. I’m pretty sappy anyway, but there was one headstone that said “Beloved Husband” and I just got this overwhelming vision of a young wife standing over it that brought me to tears.

    Great photos, too!

  35. LOVE the picture of Hailey! They so do see them. One morning my son woke up by me in bed and demanded to know “where did that little boy go?” He described this random boy with curly hair and said he was trying to get into bed with us. The next morning I asked him if he saw the little boy again. He said, “Yes, but when he tried to come in the bed you told him this wasn’t his house and he had to go home.” Fur-reaky!

  36. beautiful pictures! I will admit.. I have a hard time with cemeteries cause I am pretty much worried I am stepping on a dead person and offending then. (Yes.. I know, I know.. I am odd!) but they are very peaceful once I get over that little hang up!

  37. On our farm there is a beautiful old cemetary that was abandoned long ago. It has a wrought iron fence and ornate gravestones with caring sentiments engraved on them.

    Right (and I mean directly) beside it is the slave cemetary with no fence and no gravestones. Just… desolate.

    It’s one of the most jarring sights I’ve ever seen.

    I intend to blog about it one day.

    The Cotton Wife’s last blog post..Pears

  38. Beautiful writing, beautiful photographs.

    I imagine you were as inquisitive and playful when your parents took you to the cemeteries, too. Interesting that now you are uncomfortable even though you have, yourself, played in between gravestones.

    I also find it ironic that people spend lots of money for intricate gravestones to leave their mark but yet when someone goes to witness that mark, they are told it is wrong/strange. I guess it is only okay if you know the person buried there. That seems like a waste.

    Memoirgirl’s last blog post..Hablo Espanol?

  39. Holy crap. You’re amazing. Can- can you be my mommy??? Seriously, though, I think Hailey’s incredibly lucky to have a mother like you 🙂 I was raised with a similar attitude towards cemeteries and the like (one of the first churches my parents took me to was a mission church in a funeral home), so I was lucky enough to grow up without a lot of the fears other kiddos had to deal with.

    Gorgeous pictures, too!

  40. I love them, too. Always am drawn in …. gettysburg was very hard for me. All the young lives. Those in my car KNOW … there’s a fat chance if we see one we’ll be pulling in if not that passby another one.
    Your daughter is quite simply fabulous. I am very happy there. It saddens me when people are repelled by cemeteries.

  41. I just read this entry today (I know I’m four years late, but I just discovered you and I love reading this while I work from home! Starving writers unite!) and I absolutely love your daughter’s whimsy. The way you allow her to see the world for herself instead of giving her your opinions and beliefs is just beautiful. I hope that one day I can do the same for my children.
    Thank you, Jenny. Thank you for being funny, creepy, disturbing, open-minded and nostalgic. We need that in the world.


  42. Im not far behind Megan … a few years late but wot a lovely stumble-upon. Your pictures are divine, thats how I got here, I was attracted to the one where Hailey is talking to the angel. She’d be a few years older now … I wondering if u still go. Ive been a cemetery walker for many years, I just love it & try to see as many as I can when Im away somewhere. I love taking fotos & reading the headstones … I dont feel strange about it at all … although some friends think its kinda strange. Im frm Australia & although we have old cemeteries, they arent as old as some overseas. While travelling in Queensland a few years ago, we were on the outskirts of Bowen at sunset & I said lets just stay here for the night. We decided to turn around & head back in2 town b4 dark it just happened to b a street that had the cemetery in it. Of course we had to stop. There was an angel on a headstone right in front of me as I got out of the car … I was madly taking fotos b4 the sun went down …. she had a book on her lap. She was lovely. Much later after our trip & we were home I was going throught the fotos I noticed the date on the headstone 12th Sept (many years ago) … I said Im sure we were there on that day. My partner said how do u know that … I said bcoz it was the first day we had a hire car … I checked my diary & sure enough … it was the anniversary of her death. Spooky hey … maybe she drew me there??? 🙂 … So it kinda felt like I had made a tribute 2 her that day … it brought a smile 🙂 Thank you … Jayne

  43. I’m quite late with my comment as well. Found you though the chicken blog and I started reading from the beginning. Love this blog and pictures. I too enjoy cemeteries. I go geocaching (www.geocaching.com) and I always like to go to the cemetary caches and look at the cool headstones (even though I want to be cremated when I die) I took , my nieces (11 and 8 years old) geocaching with me a week or two ago and we did a couple cemetary caches. The older niece was kinda weirded out about being in a cemetary. We talked about it a bit and she started getting interested in looking at the headstones. She even took some pictures of some very pretty celtic crosses. Just thought it ended up being a good learning experience.

  44. I was going back through and reading old entries that I missed. I came across this. I feel the same way about old cemeteries. And the ones in Baltimore are amazing. My husband tends to feel the same way as Victor. My father is a minister, so graveyards, funeral homes, and funerals were never a fear, but more of an interest and reason to celebrate the life we still have. Kudos to sharing it with your daughter.

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