Cemeteries: Millions of untold stories
Last October, the Tour de Bronx bike ride took us through Woodlawn Cemetery. The list of eternal residents is a Who's Who of bygone New York society and culture: J.C. Penney, Joseph Pulitzer, Irving Berlin, Frank Woolworth and Celia Cruz, to name a few. Like mansions for the dead, giant mausoleums display in death the wealth that many of the interred must have enjoyed in life.
On my first trip from LaGuardia Airport into Brooklyn, I got my first look at Calvary Cemetery in Queens. There, the horizon of the cemetery blends into the Manhattan skyline, making the distant skyscrapers look like just more headstones and monuments.
Last winter, I rode solo down the Ocean Parkway bike path, a route through Brooklyn that ends at the Coney Island boardwalk (and which is the country's oldest bike path). Along the way, I stopped at Washington Cemetery, a Jewish graveyard full of poignant headstones etched with likenesses of the deceased.
Before moving out of Virginia, I spent a day in Harper's Ferry, a historic town at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. On the hill overlooking the town, I found an old graveyard with markers old enough that the dates had long since been weathered away.
And just last week, while watching "House Hunters International" (one of our favorite shows), I found a cemetery I want to visit in the future: Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Perhaps best known for being the last resting place of Eva Peron, the place looks like a city within a city, with narrow alleyways that invite exploration.
Why do cemeteries fascinate me so? Most people probably find my interest morbid. But that's not it. When I walk past the headstones and gaze at the names and dates, I think about the stories that each one represents. A life lived, whether short or long; love, whether unrequited or consummated; dreams realized or unfulfilled; hardship endured or fruits of labor enjoyed; loved ones left behind.
Put simply, when I walk through a cemetery, I feel the millions of untold stories swirling all around me. I read the scant clues provided by the names, dates and brief epitaphs and let my imagination fill in the rest. For me, ironically, there is no place more full of life than a cemetery.
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina