Sunday, June 10, 2007


Is it really honoring the dead to bury them in a graveyard and put a gravestone on top of where they lay? Why are many of us creeped out by graveyards? Why are graveyards included in so many scary movies? Are we saying that death is inherently creepy?

These questions make me think that graveyards (a) shouldn't be called graveyards and (b) could look and feel differently than they do now.

When Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, died, they held a service for him in the majestic Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Some of the Muppets spoke and sang at the service. They played the theme song to Sesame Street. There were lots of bright colors. None of this was a denial of the sadness that Jim's death brought on. It was a reflection of his request to have a ceremony that celebrated the spirit of his life.

I'm not saying that everyone has to have the theme song of Sesame Street played when they die. That wouldn't be right for a lot of people. For example, my mom said that she wants us to play the YMCA song at her funeral. Being the midwestern innocent that my mom is, she doesn't know what that song is really about. Doesn't matter, though. What matters is that when my mom hears YMCA at a wedding or in aerobics class, she waves her hard-working midwestern hands in the air, gets that shiny look in her eyes, jumps up and down, and smiles like a Cheshire cat. YMCA gets her grooving extra hard on life.

But back to my main point: death and what we do with the dead doesn't have to be so damn creepy and morose.

Instead of having graveyards, we could have gardens where the loved ones of the dead go to sit, drink iced tea, plant things, read, swing in hammocks, etc. I know I would be a lot more motivated to visit my deceased relatives out in Queens if they were buried in a place like that.

Another idea: people could request to have memorial plaques put up in their own personal favorite places, like the neighborhood park bench, the beach they went to on the weekend, the diner they frequented late at night, the toy store they went to with their children.

My point is, let's think freshly about the aesthetics of how we honor the dead.

Post Script:
Places I Might Want to Hang a Memorial Plaque if I Passed Away

1. Dashing Diva Nail Salon on Smith Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
2. The children's section of the video rental store
3. Housing Works Used Book Cafe in Soho
4. The sculpture garden at MOMA
5. Donnell Library
6. A window table at the cool, cavernous Sarabeth's restaurant in the basement of the Whitney Museum
7. The balcony at my cousin's apartment
8. The pen section of Staples Office Supply store
9. The greeting card section of Eckert Drugstore
10. The roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
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