On Sacred Ground And Spanish Moss.
When I first moved here and Justin was still working in North Carolina, I made the mistake of consecutively watching all five seasons of Six Feet Under while living in an unfamiliar house, alone, save for a couple of scruffy mutts and my own deepening existential thoughts.
What does it all mean? Why am I here? If I die before finishing a book, will I still have a chance to read the end in the afterlife?
That sort of thing.
And the show, aside from its poignant musings on all of our complicated feelings about life and death, opens each episode with the random (and often very creative) demise of an individual. We get the tiniest glimpse into that person’s life, and then — poof — they exist no more, at which point they’re taken to the funeral home run by two of the main characters, brothers Nate and David. But those deaths — the sad, sometimes quirky, and often unexpected — had me thinking about even more disturbing issues than the meaning of life, like —
If I choke on this Trader Joe’s Thai Chicken Dumpling, how long will it take for someone to find my body?
When I die — and it’s definitely “when,” because none of us has a choice in the matter — I hope it’s not in an embarrassing way, like slipping on an orange peel or driving a Segway off a cliff.
My friend Alaina said I’m the only person she knows who worries about being embarrassed when I’m dead, but listen. If I’m going to posthumously make people laugh, I’d rather it be through my writing.
(If I do die in an embarrassing way, however, I bet the hit count for this post will go through the roof.)
Also, recently a friend let me borrow a book called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach, which at least helped me escape all of the theological questions, but brought on a whole slew of questions about what should happen to my body after I’ve vacated the premises. And should I even care? I mean, talk about being embarrassed after we die — did you know we “fart?” And what if I didn’t shave my armpits that day? Would the coroner judge me? And really. If you’re already in the throes of crisis brought on by an overdose of Six Feet Under, this is probably the last book you should read. But if you’re genuinely interested in the science behind this kind of thing, it’s actually really interesting.
What I did confirm is that I’m not necessarily interested in being stuck in a cemetery for all of eternity. And, like, there’s only so much ground, you know?
But I do enjoy walking through old cemeteries, especially when I travel.
(How’s that for a segue? The kind of segue that eases readers into a new topic — not the kind of Segway that eases riders off of cliffs.)
When I visited South Carolina last summer, my friend Stephanie and I were drawn to these tiny graveyards often hidden amongst the buildings and churches of downtown Charleston.
Recognizing our mutual interest in historical resting places, Stephanie suggested we explore Magnolia Cemetery, a 92-acre park-like setting (aside from a few thousand gravestones), that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
You know — just a couple of tourists, going out of our way to walk around on hallowed ground.
The land itself is quite gorgeous — lush, verdant grass, peaceful lagoons, and wispy, Spanish moss draping over limbs like the skirts of southern belles.
Some monuments were quite ornate.
Others simple and unadorned.
Still others wrenchingly heartbreaking.
It was peaceful and fascinating, from the rusted iron fences…
To the meandering, oblivious geese…
Dedications to Civil War era soldiers…
And this 1,100 year old oak:
Which has undoubtedly witnessed more sadness than most living things could bear. A man we met at its trunk told me he was visiting the grave of his mother, who used to play under the limbs of that tree just as her mother had before her.
And, like when I watched the finale of Six Feet Under with a tear-stained face, I was struck with awe at the passing of time.
Fortunately it was the heat, and not any angry spirits, that eventually chased us off.
Does anyone else have a morbid fascination with cemeteries, cadavers, or creepy shows starring Michael C. Hall?
70 Cunnington Avenue
Charleston, SC 29405
- There is really only one tiny bathroom accessible to the public in this whole giant place. It’s located in the main office/plantation house.
- Call ahead to make sure there’s no funeral services going on during the time of your visit. If there are, the employees will likely be there and said office — with its adjoining restroom — will likely be locked.
- If you’re visiting during a hot South Carolina summer, bring plenty of water. And also plenty of empty bottles, in case, you know, the bathroom is locked.