I had to look up the plural for necropolises. Necropoli? Nope, necropolises. The etymology is Greek, not Latin. Or maybe it's other way around. I know it's not Anglo-Saxon because those Vikings just tossed the bodies overboard.
Do you ever walk through a cemetery? Maybe read the tombstones? Do you ever wonder about the dead laid out, their stories? Everyone has a story, especially the dead.
I read the gravestones and gather stories.
My memoir opens at a gravesite. A necropolis, actually. The largest pre-Colombian necropolis in the world. Maybe this is where I got my love for walks through cemeteries. I don't mean the sneaking around after dark and after hours. I prefer the quiet meandering walks along the hilly, grassy graveyards on a bright and sunny day. I read the gravestones and gather stories. The story that repeats itself in my head every time is who are the people, mostly women, who so willingly put their name next to their dead husband's with a blank end date? I want to know what happened when I see a grave with the husband’s year of death say 1953 and the wife’s date of death is still left blank when her birthdate is 1899. It’s unlikely she is still alive. So, did wifey hook up a new guy somewhere around 1955 and leave her dead husband for, well, dead? Is she buried across the cemetery with another guy? Is there any guilt in that? I mean, besides the betrayal, the promise broken, there must be at least a little guilt for the extra money spent for the engraving on her first husband’s tomb, money that was wasted. Or was it all for naught? Did she never intend to be buried with him? Was it her final act of defiance? Was it his final act of control? Did he insist she be buried next to him and she reluctantly agreed? Or maybe she never imagined she would meet someone else. When Hubby #2 comes along she never knew she could have it so good. She’d been with Hubby #1 starting in her teens and well into her 50s. Suddenly this new guy gives her a whole new lease on life.
Do the kids approve? Are they thinking, Mom, you promised Dad! Or maybe they are glad, maybe they fixed her up with Hubby #2 because Dad was an asshole. Maybe they are relieved to see her living out her old age with a fun guy who takes her swing dancing and on cruises. Or maybe he teaches her about literature and good wine. Or she teaches him and he’s a willing student unlike the jerk she was married to before.
Or maybe she moved away. Her kids lived in North Carolina and after Dad kicked off she was still young and vital and they had bushel of grandkids that needed day care so they moved her east to an unfamiliar place. Maybe they promised her they’d bury her back in that graveyard when she died, but she didn’t die for another 40 some odd years and everyone had forgotten both promises by then, or by then they figured it wouldn’t make a bit of difference if she was lying next to the dried up corpse of her husband. Or maybe, that was just it—who wants to be laid out next to a sack of bones? Maybe she had a better life after his death. But I still wonder if the one left alone was forgotten.
I wonder about all of the stories that waft over the cemeteries I walk through. I always stop into a cemetery when I’m traveling. I visit my local cemeteries regularly. So many stories that come from what I quite literally stumble across. I’ll probably share more of those here. Cemetery Blog.
Will you go? Will you tell me what you find?