Walking the Cemetery

I have a friend who often goes for walks in the Salt Lake City cemetery. I’ve seen her posts and it piqued my curiosity about the place, so I asked if I could walk with her one day. She said “Of course.” So we set forth one evening. The weather was a beautiful summer evening with a storm blowing in to cool the air. We had both rumbles of thunder and a rainbow.

I felt a tremendous peace the entire time I was in the cemetery. I could feel that it was sacred ground on which I was a welcome visitor. I loved seeing all the various styles of tombstones and grave markers. Even more, I loved that everything was jumbled around and lumpy. This was a place on the hillside and things moved after they were placed.

Stones were askew and sometimes completely knocked over. Many of them were so old it was hard to read them.

Some stones were damaged. Some had obviously been repaired.

Some were completely gone.

My friend assured me that there is a record of exactly who is buried in what plot whether or not there is a marker. This is good because there were several swathes where the graves were so old they didn’t have markers or where the residents were too poor to afford them.

I loved observing the different materials used and how they weathered over time. Sandstone, though readily available locally, does not make for a very permanent head stone.

Wood is not an ideal choice either, particularly not when there are sprinklers running constantly to keep the grass green. This family solved the problem by shellacking the wood to protect it. The technique seems to have worked since the marker was put up in 1850.

This other wooden marker is about the same age. It is sheltered by a tree, which may be why it continues to stand.

The one exception to the haphazardness of the graves was in a military section, which was in appropriate order.

We stumbled on an area labelled “Chinese Plat” whose stones charmed me.

There was even a brick oven nearby, which I believe was used to burn offerings to ancestors. It may still be used. It was in good condition.

Towards the end of the walk I began to be tired and wished for a bench so that we could sit for awhile. We spotted one and walked over to it, but carved onto the seat were two names, one with death information and one without. I knew I could not sit on that bench. It belonged to her, the woman who was still living though her husband had gone.

There was another bench not too far away and it welcomed me, delighted me even. Many of the graves, even the oldest ones, had flowers. This one was obviously the bench of a grandmother. Her grandchildren had brought her the usual assortment of treasures that children often bestow on their loved ones.

We sat for awhile with Grandma Johansen and then the sky began to rumble in earnest, so we left for home. I’m so glad I had those peaceful hours walking among the graves. Cemeteries are so often depicted as frightful places to be avoided, but this one was friendly. It was full of people coming to visit and people just out walking as we were. I hope to go back and visit again someday.