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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.

Just saying.

(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? 

Need to Know:

Magnolia Cemetery
70 Cunnington Avenue
Charleston, SC 29405

Good to Know:

  • 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.


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It is crazy weird you posted this. I always think about dying when I’m on air planes. I was flying last night home from Ohio and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I love flying after dark because the world looks like a giant light Brite board and creates glitter pictures of the world for me. I always think that when my energy disperses at death I’ll float up there like a bird in absolute silence watching the world. Is that creepy morbid? Lol I also worry about dying in an ugly way. How superficial is that?? I’m like… Please don’t make my death gruesome so it’s a closed casket service. However it shouldn’t matter because I’m equally creeped out with burying my body in the ground and I want to be cremated….. I never worry about stuff I can change or that I have control over lol I hope the mortician just thinks I was pretty and that I don’t walk into an airplane propeller. These are just some reasons I might go to hell….. ;)


Hahahaha! I’m so glad I’m not the only one with these irrational fears. ;)

Kathy Munch

Yes, yes and yes. Great cemetery shots and love Six Feet Under!


I had never seen that show. It was great!


Nice one. I was looking through my Charleston photos the other day and realized that at least half of them are cemetery pics. Makes me look super morbid, but they were just so pretty!

In the right (wrong?) head space, I can get myself really worked up about death. Like I’ll be crossing the street and think, “What if that bus didn’t stop at that red light and it hit me and I died a gruesome death but they were able to save the baby and it took them a long time to figure out who I was and how to call my husband, but when they did, there was a wrenching scene at his work and then my husband had to raise the baby alone and ok, at least he’d have my life insurance policy, but still, my child would never know me, and my husband would have to find someone else to love and I’d want that but I wouldn’t, and it’s All. So. SAD.” So there I am crossing the street, crying over NOTHING, and probably looking like a lunatic, and thinking I really need to organize a will.

And this is why I try to avoid falling into thoughts of the hypothetical. They never end with me in a good mental state.

Also, I always shred my diaries so that if I die, no one will read them and laugh at me.


I actually laughed out loud at that last part. I don’t keep a diary now (well, aside from this blog), but I go back through my old ones and laugh at MYSELF. :)

Ana Guerra

I don’t think you are morbid. I’m originally from Havana and our cemetery was considered a place to sightsee.I have to travel to Charleston on business and I’ve never been there. I’m going in February and I haven’t been on a plane in years. Some of the things you’re mentioning worry me also. You’re not creepy.


Don’t worry too much! Charleston is a beautiful city. Do try to check out the cemetery if you have time!

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