We (which is to say me) here at Eclectic Light have admittedly not seen all that many graveyards. But we will endeavor to make up for it by talking a lot about the few we have seen.
King Solomon Memorial Park– Clifton NJ.
King Solomon was the cemetery of my childhood. A grandfather, dead since before my conscious memory, and an assortment of other ancestors are buried there, organized in a “Family Circle,” marked by short square pillars.
All the other nearby graves are similarly grouped, giving the impression of a residential street lined with family homes. Within each home, generations and in-laws peacefully lie side by side. (I’ve certainly never noticed any fights.)
My father’s branch of the family tree has been interring members in King Solomon since 1942. The first to take up residence, sadly, was “beloved baby daughter” Felice, who (according to the research of my mother, in-house genealogist) fell victim to crib death/SIDS about halfway through her first year. The most recent was my father’s father, brought down by a heart attack in 1997.
My parents would drive my sister and me when we were younger every year or so to King Solomon, to visit my grandfather’s grave. Often, when we did so, our (admittedly shitty) car would die in the cemetery. The delicious irony on this occurrence was not lost on us two youngsters: “The car died! Just like the people! The car wants to be dead!” etc.
Equally macabre was the diner across the street — The “Tick Tock” Diner, as in “Tick-tock, tick-tock, your time is running out…”
King Solomon is where I was first exposed the idea of death and the manner in which the living respond. It is where I first saw people, people who had once lived and breathed and ate crackers and scraped their knees and fidgeted and thought stupid thoughts and been nasty and been loving– complex human beings, just like the rest of us– reduced to a few words on a block of stone. There I first began to wrap my young mind around the question of what it means to be remembered after one’s own end.
Lodz Jewish Cemetery–Lodz, PL
Lodz Jewish Cemetery is large-
but I spent the entirety of my visit here-
looking for the graves of my great-great-great-grandparents. My mother, using http://www.jewishgen.org, had tracked down the plot numbers of said forebears, the grandparents of my father’s mother’s parents. Since I was studying in Poland last summer, and since my program’s itinerary included a trip to Lodz, it was the perfect opportunity for me to acquire a photograph of their graves for the family files.
The day was gray and the air heavy with moisture. I bought a cemetery map, hunched to protect it from the drizzle, and split off from the group tour. Translating the JewishGen plot numbers onto the map, and the map to the overgrown wood that was Lodz Jewish Cemetery proved more difficult than I’d expected. Luckily, a graduate student who’d spent a lot of time searching through Polish graveyards helped me to get my bearings.
The cemetery, I realized while hitting back branches to peer at gravestones, was beautiful. Lack of money had permitted tree and undergrowth to sprout unchecked, forming a wooded park. Though not conducive to to grave hunting or the cemetery’s long-term survival, the trees lent an otherwordly ambience. They made the graveyard a different, quieter place insulated from the outside bustle of life.
And the stones were much more varied and elaborate than anything I’d seen in the States.
The rain had cleared and the sun begun to shine hesitantly through the leaves by the time I had found both great-great-great-grandma and great-great-great-grandma, who were buried in separate women’s and men’s sections. I traipsed back to the tour bus to find the rest of the group waiting and hungry for lunch. I hear there are number of sumptuous mausoleums and a tomb that looks like a UFO, but I did not see them. Which is fine. I thoroughly enjoyed my corner of Lodz Jewish Cemetery.
More graveyards to follow. Which is good if you like that sort of thing.