…where stories never die, where the ghosts are words, whispering themselves anew to each passerby.
Okay, I never claimed to be a poet. How about this, then? He imagined a future in which he could read everything, in which all stories could be opened and discovered. — Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book.
It’s just a brief line, but it’s one of my favorites. I smiled when I heard it read aloud, and I smiled again as I read it to myself. I imagine I’ll smile everytime I think of it, because it’s such a perfect love-note to the concept of stories. At the same time, by its context, it expresses the idea of graveyards as respositories of tales. They are, just as surely as any library or bound volume.
This weekend, I was walking in a local graveyard. There was an abandoned house in the graveyard, from the 1800s. Presumably it once belonged to a caretaker. Now there is assorted junk piled inside; the windows are smashed; the door is smashed. And yet there was a lone blue coffee cup sitting by the door, as though someone had just set it down and stepped away.
There is a graveyard in New Jersey with a stone marked ‘An Unknown Woman’. According to the groundskeeper, she was found dead in the streets, and though they ran her description in all the local papers, no family or friends ever came to claim her.
In a graveyard in New Hampshire (I think), my mother and I came across three small gravestones, belonging to three little girls all born to the same family. One after another, they were born and died, and their parents gave them all the same name.
In a graveyard in New Orleans, people leave offerings for Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen. They mark her grave with little crosses. They leave flowers and candles and coins. And often, after these pilgrims pass by, other men and women slip in like shadows and steal the coins from her grave…