Life, Death and the Spaces Between

My Aunt Would Say; Do you want to Visit the Cemetery?


It would be one of the first things I’d hear; ‘Do you want to visit the cemetery?’

I was asked that when visiting in the 70’s, 80’s, less in the 90’s. She had spent more time of her life with my parents than with me. But some folks have differing ideas about where ones dead family members are buried or otherwise “kept”.

My own view was always as it is now; once you are dead you are gone, and if there is a heaven, I doubt if it is sitting forever 6 feet under waiting for someone to come by. It all seems more about loss, remembrance and superstition. A couple times I did go with her since it seemed important for her. This has all come to mind over last nights
The Tibetan Book of The Dead on the History Channel, and a spiritual blog I visited the day before asking a question about life after death.

There are some ideas that humans need closure and various rituals to connect them to some essence of the departed. I’m OK with that, I hardly think it justifies taking up land for the dead, as if at some future date we might have to all live in skyscrapers as to not disturb the dead. In Tibet, you (or what is left) are set free to the vultures, but then a prayer ritual goes on for some 49 days to guide you to your next life.

Pay attention to the monks praying and you might become a newborn human instead of a cat or a mouse. Can’t say much on that, except it seems somewhat arbitrary, spiritually, if ones concentration on the guides saves you from becoming a termite instead of a valuable member of a human society. Do you move up again if you are a good termite instead of a reckless one? But then I did not design existence…

Respect, disturb, visiting, well which is it? I feel respect of a sorts at cemeteries, especially the very old ones. There is something touching over the gesture, and for old (abandoned?) cemeteries, the idea that I can imagine what lives came and went around there. History itself, seemingly drifting off into a mausoleum.

I can get a similar feeling finding an old rusted car in a field, or a rusted piece of farm machinery, so it might be an association of respect and even admiration for what once was, that still maintains an artifact where it gave up the ghost. But I feel no such connection of essence to the graves of my parents. I also do not get the insistence some have over getting bones put into a hole for completion of one lost from this life. People seem to intend to carry out wars and smaller scale demands over getting their relatives or ancestors bones put back into some realm of respect, due to location of the remains. But this stuff is going on in the livings minds for various reasons the dead may have little cause with.

My respect for a dead person is unaltered by where their bones are, or if they were cremated or had an air burial, or burial at sea. I likewise do not care where my bones will be kept if anywhere at all; I am part of this earth and the Spirit of Life, what anyone does with my remains will be immaterial to that, unless, I suppose, space is taken up for the endeavor.

Who I am, and whatever being human is, we know it is about consciousness. You and I are inside our consciousness, not fully in anyone else’s. I am not living your life, obviously. When I am dead, I am some aspect of that consciousness I was or its Source, or nothing. But I will not be hunkered down in a box underground waiting for visitors, checking my stats, counting if all my bones are there or whatever.

Visit the cemetery? I will as long as they exist, for the view and the idea of respect created by the idea of respect, but not to visit anyone dead. To visit the dead, see them as alive in your own mind. Tell stories and wander through their apparent narrative, their meaning for you. Photo’s can help with that. Death is part of Life, and if this life had reason for you or I, I imagine that reason is continued on, just like energy, bones or no bones.