Cemeteries can be inspiring. I know a lot of people who will go to great lengths to avoid visiting hospitals, nursing homes, cemeteries and anyplace else that reminds them that one day they’re going to die. I won’t admit to being a fan of hospitals and nursing homes, but I like visiting old cemeteries.
They give us a glimpse into history and remind us of our own mortality. If you’re caught up in your day-to-day life and need to be reminded of the big picture, visit a cemetery and you’ll be reminded that life is short and we all end up six feet under at one point or another, rich or poor, black, white or yellow.
New England has some of the country’s oldest and most interesting cemeteries. My favorite is Old Burial Hill in Marblehead, Massachusetts, one of America’s most beautiful and oldest settlements. The cemetery was founded in 1638, some nine years after the town was first settled, and it offers a glimpse at the history of the town, plus a view of the historic center and the sea. There are more than 600 revolutionary soldiers buried at Old Burial Hill but most aren’t marked.
Many of the oldest tombstones have ghoulish likenesses of crude winged skulls, which tells me that our forefathers weren’t as squeamish about death as we are. Take a look around Old Burial Hill and you’ll understand why – life in Colonial America was precarious and health care was nonexistent – there are scores of babies and young adults buried here.
If you’re in the Boston area and you like visiting old cemeteries, definitely check out the circa 1659 Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, which is right down the street from the Old North Church in the North End, and the city’s oldest cemetery, King’s Chapel, founded in 1630 right in the hear of the city.
[Photos and Videos by Dave Seminara]