A Day Pondering Death at the Oakland Cemetery
The following is a piece I wrote for a class in my Master’s program. The class, while really inspiring and fun was called Grief, Loss, and Dying. The assignment was as follows:
Finding/Creating Meaning Stories: In this assignment, you should write a one-page story/poem that shows how you cope (or attempt to cope) with the loss and disruption inherent in the human condition. How do you put it all together for yourself? You should spend several hours in an activity/place/space during the week that brings (you hope will bring) you a sense of meaning, hope, peace, inspiration—something that is specific to you and helps you cope with the inevitable loss and disruption in the human condition. What you do is really up to you and I will ask your classmates to suspend judgment about what you choose (as will I). In class, you will turn in one typed page that describes your experience and reflections and be prepared to speak to the class briefly (5-10 minutes) about your experience.
The following is a rough transcription (without direct ownership) of dialogue that I submitted. Wanna play a fun game? Try to decide who said what in the dialogue below. My own mother failed miserably at guessing correctly.
A Day Pondering Death at the Oakland Cemetery
It’s such a pretty day.
I love to wander cemeteries, is that weird?
If it’s weird then I’m weird.
While wandering around death, it’s nice you can hear life from the patio bar across the street.
The bar is called Six Feet Under.
All the Confederate dead are buried here from the Battle of Atlanta.
“Never forget.” Never forget what? That these soldiers died fighting for an abhorrent system of oppression?
I gotta leave the South.
I like mausoleums; they’re my favorite. They’re like little clubhouses for the dead.
Willie was a quiet man, but he was the first person to fly into Atlanta in an airplane. He shit his pants trying to land. Little known fact.
You come up with good stories. I like the voices you pick.
The interesting thing is, my voices would offend the dead, I sound like the guys that would have fixed their cars.
Guess who is buried there.
Judging from the middle-aged ladies in Chico’s clothing, I’m going to go with Margaret Mitchell.
How come there aren’t rocks on the Jewish graves? Oh wait there’s one.
I think it’s interesting they’re segregated by which Temple they attended.
How come this section has such nice landscaping?
Dead people with money.
We both tripped over those bricks at the same time.
He died exactly 90 years before I was born.
Interesting that’s the first date you found.
Why the lamb on a Jewish grave?
Because baby graves always get lambs, I don’t think it’s denominational.
This is a new headstone. For a baby that lived one day, had no name, and died 80 years ago. What in the world is the story there?
I would want a huge monument to myself in a field. Just as a joke. Something that looks like a huge sea cucumber.
Sea cucumbers are gross.
That’s where the joke comes in.
She died young; it just says “Wife” and “Daughter.” Obviously, he’s not buried with her; he’s probably resting with his next wife. So who paid for this?
I think so too.
The Confederates did a lot of stuff wrong, but this statue they did right.
What a sad looking lion.
His testicles are a bit disconcerting.
I want to be scattered in the Gulf of Mexico, remember that please.
Oh I don’t want anything like this at all.
They do tours here, I’m sure he’s a volunteer.
Nah, he just shows up and recruits people by looking official and then makes shit up.
That woman looks totally drunk over there.
Well it’s always a crapshoot when you decide to trip balls and then wander a cemetery.
I’m looking for a guy’s name – they make better stories.
Why is everyone named “Annie?” There are like hundreds of Annie’s in here.
The dead will come out, tomorrow….
None of them can really make a sound – in the ground…
Oh, please get a picture of me next to this “Redwine” tombstone. This is hilarious.
Wait, I really want to find this one, and I know it’s on this side. There it is.
What is that?
Yeah. This one always catches me off guard.
Is that a cd engraved on the headstone?
Yeah. I’m going to google him.
Who was he?
Famous for his headstone I guess.
He was young.
A lot of bad cocaine in the 90’s.
Is that a magnolia?
That is the biggest magnolia tree I’ve ever seen.
You know I just don’t think I could ever drink out of a water fountain in a cemetery.
If we act like we believe in the afterlife, why do we bother with all this grandeur for death?
That’s the question now isn’t it?
I don’t want to be the kind of person that says it too much, but sometimes it’s really hard not to say, “I love you,” when you say awesome things.
I love you too.
(I got an A).