Our conversation continued by sharing experiences with the departed during our frequent cemetery visits. Jim mentioned a cousin who had been spoken to by cemetery inhabitants who asked “Who are you?”, “Why are you here?” and even suggested she “Go away!”
I’ve had a few similar experiences. Like Jim’s cousin, my conversations with the departed are generally very brief. I rarely talk back lest a passer-by hears me and wonders about my sanity. Remember I’m in the cemetery taking pictures of headstones; I’m already on shaky ground as far as some people are concerned.
The majority of my cemetery visits are uneventful. I never feel threatened or afraid. The cemeteries I frequent are generally peaceful quiet places with smooth rolling hills and pretty landscaping. The monuments are interesting and unique and I’m often caught up in the history, art and architecture.
During some trips however, as I walk through an area I’ll get a sensation or a feeling, almost like the mood has changed. I’ve felt overwhelming sadness on occasion and at different times I have experienced moments of deep peace or well-being. These sensations are fleeting, rarely lasting for more than a moment or two.
Once in awhile I’ll hear a voice, or rather have a sense that someone is talking to me but there is no one around; especially when I’m at a cemetery for a lengthy Find A Grave photo contributor visit.
Like the time I was getting tired and starting to think about heading home from Acacia Park Cemetery. A gentleman at the far end of the next row said I “may as well take pictures all the way down to the end, you’ll just have to come back for me later if you don’t”.
Another time a tall angel on an even taller monument at Lakewood Cemetery told me I wasn’t seeing her at her best. I just continued photographing that section. After working my way around I saw the angel again. She had been right. The late afternoon angle of the sun created an aura of light glowing around her.
A young man at St Luke’s Cemetery steered me toward his cousin’s headstone so she “wouldn’t feel left out” of all the photos I was taking.
A grandmother at Westlawn chided me for taking a “group shot of Rose’s family” and just a single photo of her headstone. I quickly corrected that.
During our one and only visit to a remote cemetery in Wisconsin, an older gentleman said about my husband and me “you folks have already been through here”. “No we haven’t”, I thought. Turns out he was talking about Find A Grave folks in general, not us specifically.
Before you call the men in white coats, let me remind you I spend a lot of time in cemeteries. I have visited hundreds of them across the Midwest and taken thousands of pictures. I don’t hear voices anywhere but in cemeteries and those experiences are few and far between.
And I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything in this world.