For Easter, I went to a cemetery. For no reason other than to lay flowers on graves of people that I have never met. This is not something I would normally do on Easter, or really on any other day. With the exception of burial services, I have never had a reason to visit someone’s grave. For the people I have lost in my life, I think about them all the time, and I have never felt the need to visit them graveside. But its Easter, and a friend of mine suggested we go. Since she is visiting from Toronto, I decided it would be something interesting for us to do together. There is a great deal of history after all – and just by looking at the types of headstones, you can learn a lot about the styles of the day – and the kind of person that they were.
But we hit a couple of snags. First, we couldn’t find flowers. You’d think that there would be plenty of flowers to be had on Easter, but we couldn’t find any. So we settled on mandarin oranges. There are cultures that put oranges and other kinds of food to wish good fortune, to show respect towards the dead, or to offer it to the evil spirits – so they will not eat the souls of the departed. But we chose this because I have a friend who does this for someone who loved oranges, and I thought it was a really special offering.
Second, we didn’t actually know anyone who was buried in the cemetery, so we walked around for awhile, until we connected with a headstone. We would talk to it, or just stand quietly and meditate on their lives a bit. And for ones we connected with, we placed an orange on the stone, as a sign to let them know we were there and thinking about them.
The last orange I offered, was to a woman named Ethel, who died in 1935 at 28 years and 11 months. Her family chose not to use her last name. I found the bolster gravestone an interesting one – and the design of the cylinder balanced on a slab of granite, made me feel like perhaps she was a bit undecided in life – or maybe even just a little chaotic.
Photo by Sisi – Taken at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, BC