Promise Me a Place.

I haven’t been grave-tending in almost two and a half years. It wasn’t for lack of desire; life just managed to get in the way.

It started off for mundane reasons anyway.

Olga, the shiny 2001 behemoth that I had been tooting around in for almost 5 years, decided she was on her last legs. It seemed foolish to go on extraneous side trips to the cemeteries and graveyards that call me by name or to explore news ones far off in the cities around my home. I needed to go 20 miles to and 20 miles from work five days a week; maintaining my and my family’s standard of living was more important than my happiness at any rate.

When Olga was replaced by the slightly newer Karen and had gone to the scrap heap in the sky, it was too hot in the mornings to try. I determined that my comfort had more bearing on the situation and told myself: in the autumn, when the days are cooler. I looked forward to it.

But autumn arrived and I moped inside on Saturday mornings. For some reason, I couldn’t reconcile the job of tending graves without the slick-speaking, top hat-wearing, sunglasses-with-one-piece-of-glass old man who had grabbed me up and told me to get doin’ the good work. He was gone along with all his mates and as much as I wanted to feel the cool, calm release that comes from speaking with the dead as I clear off detritus and feed their souls, I couldn’t do it. So, I moped away my Saturdays and felt abysmal for it.

I tried to talk it up with Anup, asking him to help me figure this all out, but our relationship had boiled down to two growling beasts unable to find or unwilling to find common ground. I gave it all up and moped away Saturday after Saturday, trying to forget that part of my life. It was gone and I was better off without it.


To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery, my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches. – Charles Baudelaire

My mom pointed out to me some time last year that I seemed much happier when I went grave-tending on a regular basis. It took me a while to figure iut what the fuck she was talking about. I hadn’t really considered the idea that it was a stress relief to me. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t just about the deceased calling me, but about me as well.

What I found, upon reflection, was that the experience was more than a snappy-dressed old man, telling me to get up and go explore. I found myself reviewing weeks of high stress and the image of graveyards quietly settling me down at the end of the week. I distinctly recall sitting at my desk one day and reminding myself that the bullshit I was dealing with was effluvia; it would be gone from my mind when I finally got to the cemeteries.

As much as I could admit that grave-tending was practically a necessity for me to stay sane, I kept getting caught up in what it had started off for me. It had been with the simple intention of paying homage to the man with the crass entourage that I started all of this and it morphed from there. No matter what though, he still remained st the center of it and I felt his loss more keenly when I considered going back to it.

I guess I was… grieving? I will admit to being surprised by it. I hadn’t considered my relationship with that sex-joke telling party boy to be that important where grief would play a part in our separation but there it was. I was actually grieving and I needed to keep to myself to fully process it all.

The problem was that I let the grief eat me up. I forgot that I needed to walk among the dead, touch their cool stones, read their names, and feed their souls. I forgot that it was a sacrifice of time and money, but it was also a reward for the terrible weeks that made up my work life. It wasn’t as simple as A and B; there were a few extra letters of the alphabet in there and it spelled out, your needs are important bby.

The act of mourning a loss can take as long as it needs, really, but sometimes the act of grieving works against you. It destroys you a little bit at a time and you don’t realize it until it’s too late. It takes pieces of you away from the whole and you’re left over compensating for the giant hole born of that grief.

It may sound a bit melodramatic but I think my not going to graveyards and cemeteries destroyed a fundamental part of who I was becoming, who I was meant to be. I can’t help but wonder now if part of my stagnation problem was because I had stopped going out for that stress relief each week.


When I am dead and buried, on my tombstone I would like to have it written, ‘I have arrived.’ Because when you feel that you have arrived, you are dead. – Yul Brynner

Shortly after the very nice lady told me that I was a house with nothing going on inside, I spent time looking at myself to see what was lacking. As I’ve remarked time and again, she wasn’t wrong; she didn’t tell me anything new. I was like a shadow of a person, or maybe more like a negative image. Everything that made me who I am was remote and distant; I was just a shell really.

During a talk with TTR about all of this, I realized that there were things I could do to get back to my roots. One of the steps was getting my tongue pierced again; I got that settled in January. Another step was cutting off my hip-length hair and keeping it at a manageable length. That was completed last month.

This month, as the warmer weather finally began appearing after the few weeks of solid winter in February, I got up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise. I drank my coffee, listening to the birds happily discussing whatever birds discuss and made plans to get back in touch with myself, get down to who I am and visit some cemeteries. I chose the closest ones to tend to, having missed them greatly.

I spent time clearing branches away from graves older than my grandparents. Some of the winter storms had dropped branches straight down into the graves below, burying them deep enough where I left them alone. I cleared back dead flowers, threw away trash, and mourned over the fallen over monuments that had tipped over since last I had been.

I felt a peace and contentment that I haven’t touched in a very long time.

I fed my dead and told them to expect more in future. They seemed cautiously optimistic, not as though they had forgotten me but like they didn’t put faith in what I was saying. It wasn’t just the fact that I had disappeared but the fact that they had all heard that line before. How many others before me had said that they would return with goodies and treats and never did?

I plan on going back and I plan on finding new local places to pay attention to. I had never stopped having the desire to tend graves; I had never said at any point that the job wasn’t for me. I just… got lost a little, maybe. Turned down the wrong cross path when I should have gone straight or something.

But I’m moving in the right direction again. I know I am; I can feel it like a zing in my joints, a pleasant weight against my torso. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. And I hope that I won’t get lost again.

Kemetic Round Table: Akhu for Beginners.

To the ancient Egyptians, who you were related to was pretty important. This is born out in all of the inscriptions we have identified, which indicates how so-and-so was the son of so-and-so, who was the son of so-and-so. The important part wasn’t so much the genetic aspect of who was descended from who, but who the heir to the family line was and so, therefore, who would be next in line to fulfill their father’s office. While the pharaoh could and occasionally did exercise the right to appoint someone to office – due to bribery, the end of a familial line, just because, etc. – generally speaking, offices were passed down from father to son. It wasn’t so much who you knew as who you were related to since lineal descent bore fruit for the females of the family as well; the priesthoods were filled with nepotism. And it was through a father that a son could become an important political player, such as vizier or mayor of a nomarch. So, while the genetics aspect is pretty important from our modern standpoint, the actual blood line didn’t matter in so much as whether or not that blood line could further your career… or end it should someone from that line piss of anyone more powerful.

Not only was the who’s who of your family important, but so too was seeing them properly taken care of in the afterlife. Considering the wealth of afterlife beliefs in ancient Egyptian religion, this really isn’t so surprising. It was important for the people of ancient Egypt to continue to pay homage to the cult centers of the pharaoh even after they had died. The nobility had similar beliefs after they were granted “access” to the afterlife as akhu (plural form of akh, meaning “transfigured dead”) in the later periods. The laity had absolutely no hopes whatsoever of doing anything other than serving in the afterlife, just as they did in life (the whole concept of the afterlife was, also, filled with nepotism), which was technically taken away from them by the creation of the shabti figurines in the Middle Kingdom. But making sure that the spirits of the dead were remembered was the most important part. The rulers and the nobility could pay “in perpetuity” to have their names spoken aloud, offerings provided, and ensuring that they were not lost to the sands of time. (This didn’t last past the next intermediate period, but with large standing monuments to their death, there was obviously some remembrance of them.) This wasn’t the case with the laity. They had to hope their line would continue and someone would be around to at least speak their names.

Failure to remember them was the worst desecration imaginable to the ancient Egyptians. There’s much discussion about “chiseling out” names, especially when it comes to the Amarna Heresy. This wasn’t simply an attempt of later generations to remove the Heretic King and his direct descendants from the kings’ lists, but a direct attack against their spirit and their attempt to reach the afterlife. If images weren’t available and a body wasn’t available, the ba would have nowhere to regenerate and to feast upon its offerings. If the names weren’t available in texts, then the name would die out and be forgotten. The ancient Egyptian belief in the soul listed the ren (or, the name) as the very essence, the very foundation of the person and by obliterating any memory of that name, then they were effectively killing off the soul. So, remembering the deceased was one of the most important aspects to the ancient Egyptian religious system.

A lot of people, when they start entering Kemeticism, get hung up on the akhu question: should I or shouldn’t I? It’s kind of a personal question, so whether or not people decide to move forward with integrating the akhu into their practice is up to them. Of course, I totally get it. There are a lot of people that many people are related to who are, for lack of a better term, fucking assholes. And who really wants to remember fucking assholes, am I right? It is possible to obliterate, so to speak, those fucking assholes from the akhu thing if you’re interested. I strongly recommend not letting some fucking assholes ruin something that you may end up finding to be really awesome and really useful. It can be nice and almost cathartic to remember the people in your lives – genetic ancestors or inter-marriage relatives or adopted relatives or whomever – who have passed before you.

The in-home akhu altar space is simple, but effective.

The in-home akhu altar space is simple, but effective.

Personally, I do have a relationship with my akhu. It can be very difficult though because I have a lot of family members who have passed on and I want to honor all of them. I honestly can’t have an akhu altar in my house for all of my ancestors. I would always be adding someone new, either because someone in my family has passed or someone in my significant other’s family has passed or because my dad’s family married and divorced so many times that I have a ton of fucking step-grandparents and step-aunts and uncles. So, I mostly have a generic altar space that I use in my home (very rarely, mind) to pay homage to the dead. Usually, on large holidays such as the Festival of Wag, I will set up a temporary altar space in my home so that I can pay my respects to those whom have passed and I leave it at that since I can’t really get to all of their graves in two days’ time.

Something that I have found, and other Kemetics have also found, is that it can be very difficult to integrate the deceased into a religious practice that is not something they are familiar with. Most of my family members who have passed are Christian stock. My daddy was born and raised a Methodist and my mother’s family are all conservative, die-hard Catholics. What I have found with this is that, the closer they are to the time when they passed, the more push back I get from them. I visit my father’s and grandmother’s grave often, but the offerings that I provide to them are grudgingly taken. They appreciate my remembrance of them, but they do not appreciate the trappings that memory is cocooned within: Kemeticism. I have had intense dreams with my father yelling at me about this, in the past, and I’ve felt similar misgivings from other family members as well.

Some people have decided that this means they should not incorporate the akhu veneration into their practice. Others have found that by incorporating religious frameworks that the deceased would understand has made for an easier time with those deceased. Though she is no longer around, I knew a Kemetic of Philippine ancestry who incorporated Philippino ancestor veneration into their practice when her ancestors gave push back on how she was trying to incorporate them. Another Kemetic blogger, also no longer around, found the same issue and incorporated Jewish traditions into their veneration. While there is nothing specific to culture that I have found to ease the process with my family members (their argument is based solely on religious grounds, it seems, as opposed to cultural), I still try to appease them as well as myself when I reach out to them.

What I have also found, though, is that the longer someone has been deceased, the less likely they will care how you remember them. All they seem to really care about is that someone is actually bothering to pay some attention to them. My mother completed a large genealogical project when I was in high school for her family. She included some of my father’s family in this project and so, I have the wherewithal to visit the local graves of many of my longer-deceased family members. My great-grandparents and great-great grandparents seem to not give two shits if I provide them standard offerings as based on a Kemetic framework, so long as I take a little jaunt over periodically, clean off the grave, and let them know that they are remembered. Just as with the netjeru, it seems to be the intent behind the practice for the longer-deceased than it is about how you go about the work.

The theory that those who have been dead for longer care less about the trappings is born out my grave-tending duties. While these duties didn’t start off because of my akhu veneration (it actually all started because I was serving the Bawon Samedi, in all honesty), I do occasionally fall back to a Kemetic standpoint when I decide to visit and leave offerings to the graveyards in my area. All of the graveyards I visit are ignored, passed by, and hardly get any attention from the cities that are supposed to be tending to them. I have found that because I have let them know that I will remember them, take care of their graves, and have photographed them (so that when I die, should no one continue this work after me, there will be a “forever” memory so to speak), they are all for it. They think it’s wonderful. I have gone into graveyards that have been ignored for years and found that they were pleased with what I was doing because at least someone was paying some damned attention to them.

I think, all in all, the practice is very rewarding on numerous levels. How other people decide to move forward, if they decide to do so, when it comes to the akhu is of course going to be dependent on how they feel regarding their ancestors. But I have found that I feel very much more connected with the world, at large, because I do incorporate them into my religious practice.

Further Reading

This Is What Grave-Tending Is.

With dirt-covered fingers and broken fingernails, I know that I succeeded, somewhere.

With dirt-covered fingers and broken fingernails, I know that I succeeded, somewhere.

As I sat in my car, leaning my head back against the head rest and my eyes shut against the bright sunshine, I felt the ache in my muscles. My shoulders and my forearms were calling out for a warm soak and stiffened fingers needed cleaning. As I opened my eyes and glanced down, I marveled at the change in my hands. The few nails that had grown out in the last two weeks were broken and dirty. There were pockmarks left from when I had buried my hands, to the wrist, in blackened soil and overgrown grass roots. On my forefinger, I had somehow managed to rip open the cuticles around the base of my nail and was only feeling the pain from that injury as I looked down at my marvelous, work-soaked hands. And as I marveled at my hands and all of the hard work they had done, as well as all the injury they had received, I knew I had succeeded in doing a job well done. The ache in my muscles, the dirt on my hands, the injuries I was cataloging were all clear signs that I had succeeded in the sacrifice and I could go home pleased.

I don’t really discuss grave-tending overmuch right now. It’s become so habitual that I honestly forget to discuss it outside of a few pointed comments here and there. It’s also become such a devotional and sacred act that, occasionally, the act of writing about it or the act of speaking about it feels, sometimes, to detract from the works that I am doing. It is with glee and joy, with excitement and happiness that I do these things for the land, those interred, my family, and the surrounding area. But, there are some days in which I want to speak even less about the work and more about the act itself. In same vein, there are days where I don’t want to do much more than come home and weep for the destruction the elements cause and that time causes. On days like that, I don’t want to say or do anything to bring it back into focus because it hurts. But some days, all I want to do is snap pictures of my once beautifully manicured hands and say, this is what it is to tend graves.

Yesterday, I went to family graves. I go to them, sometimes, because I need the quick release I’ve come to associate with grave-tending. The act, in and of itself, is like a trip to the mall for someone who needs retail therapy. Only, instead of buying clothes and shoes to fill a closet I don’t have, I snap pictures of the things that I do and of the people that I meet. Some days, I go with an intention bigger than life – to photograph a cemetery with hundreds of headstones and it becomes a project for a few weeks. And soon, I will begin another project like that, but first, I wanted to see to all of my favorites and all of my family before I begin the big things again. So, yesterday, I went to see my father’s family members who are buried nearby. I haven’t seen my grandmother since last year and her grave was covered over for the most part.

It took me a while to clear it of the grass. Roots are tenacious buggers and the grass or sod used in cemeteries is a pain. There are days where I rip off all of my nails as I clear off headstones from the detritus of time and being forgotten. My grandmother was another one of those casualties and I couldn’t even read her name or her dates. I could read the epithet clearly, her laughter was as warm as our memory of her. But, I couldn’t see who she was anymore and I couldn’t remember the important dates anymore. I cut off the grass with spade and chisel, carefully clearing the extraneous dirt into one of the jars I have to hand for such instances. I cut a worm in half, accidentally. I fought the roots. I took a toothpick and cleared away the roots that had infested the etchings. And then I sat back and marveled at my handiwork.

I looked down at my hands and said, this is what it means to grave-tend.

The acts that I provide are a consummate sacrifice. If I’m not sacrificing skin and cuticles, nails and muscles, then I’m sacrificing other things, too. I sacrifice my Saturday mornings to do these things. I sacrifice the rest of my day, actually, so that I can rest up and have a day all to myself – a novelty, really, when you have a five-year-old at home. I sacrifice the money I earn from my job in gas and offerings. Some of these places are a stone’s throw away, so to speak, but many of them are not. And they all deserve my love and my attentiveness. I take that sacrifice to heart and I feel the joy that my heart sings at having done so. Sometimes, sacrifice is easy and other times it is not. In either case, all that matters is that I am willing to patiently do what I can every week to see that these people, biological family and otherwise, are remembered and fed well.

On days like yesterday, I sit in my car for a while and let the stiffened muscles relax for a bit. I left them settle themselves after being put to use. And in those quiet moments, before I’m quite ready to start the trek back home, I wonder. I wonder at my hands, as I’ve shown. I wonder at the graves I have yet to photograph or get to know. I wonder at the things I’ve seen – like yesterday, I saw a hawk soaring above me for 15 minutes – that are outside my normal frame of reference. But mostly, I wonder if there are other people out there like me. I wonder if there are other people who are aware of the heartache and sacrifice that these acts actually are. And I wonder if the people who make noises about being interested in what I do would give it the respect it so honestly deserves.

On days like yesterday and days still yet to come, I sit in my car and I smile with joy at the broken nails, the new wounds, and the dirt encrusting my hands. I smile for the devotional act I can do and willingly do. I smile and laugh and relax. I smile for all the things but nothing so much more than the physical reminder of what I do and why I do it.

This is what grave-tending is.

Akhu Veneration.

Sometimes, I think I’m an oddity in the Kemetic community, considering how very important veneration of the akhu is in my practice. Most of my community doesn’t have as much in it as I do. They have moments where they say prayers or where they offer items for their akhu, but they don’t hold as much… not faith or stock… they don’t do it as often as I do. I am very careful to remember my akhu on their birth and death anniversaries. I set lights for their souls and feed them at every opportunity. I also don’t care too much about akhu who would be considered… jerks or assholes, I suppose, by some of the others in my Kemetic community. To me, an akhu is an akhu is an akhu. And while I never knew the grandmother on my biological father’s side, I know that she has passed from this world and she has joined my general remembrance of all my akhu.

I’m also exceptionally strange in the fact that I have added people whom I never knew, with no biological connection to me, as part of my akhu veneration.

The thing is that, now, when I think of akhu, I don’t tend to just refer to the people who I venerate who are my specific biological ancestors or the ones who are a part of my family via adoption or intermarriage any longer. I tend to view all the work I do in the cemeteries, going there and remembering them and feeding their spirits, as part of my akhu veneration. I don’t know these people and they never had a slip to do with how I ended up on this planet and in this body with these particular genetics, but they have vastly become part and parcel to what I refer to when I think akhu veneration. And I think that’s also part of the oddity, as well; what some people would think of as simply working with the Deadz, I’ve long since jettisoned that terminology and those feelings to encompass a large group of people who most wouldn’t categorize as part of their practice.

I find myself exceptionally amazed at the transition of my path in just the one year I’ve solidly put into this work. I went from working with the intention of just cleaning up some cemeteries and possibly aiding some genealogical researchers to suddenly feeling that if I cannot do these things – go the cemetery, leave my offerings, take my pictures – then I am as good as dead, myself. It’s so all-pervasive that with the possible future change in weather, I am nearly champing at the bit, ready to get back out and into the cemeteries, to clean up, to feed, and to love and remember.

Who would have guessed this was what I could expect?

Certainly not me.

It’s funny, though, how things transition without you realizing it. You start a practice and you think, this could be fun. And as time slips by, you get into the swing of things or into a groove. And when that groove becomes commonplace, then you realize that it truly becomes a part and parcel to what it is you are looking to building, looking to do. And before you know it, you are not merely venerating akhu as is commonly associated in a Kemetic standpoint, but you are suddenly surrounded by akhu, akhu whom you’ve never known or will ever know, but there they are.

This whole veneration thing… it certainly takes on a life of its own…

Grave-Tending Two Cemeteries.

So, initially, this post was going to be an action-packed picture whore of a post in which I showed you all of the great and magnificent things I did today. However, due to technical difficulties, which I will get into later on, I had to change my initial idea.

For all those people who are recent followers or who have forgotten, one of the duties I took upon myself was to go grave-tending to older and forgotten cemeteries. This pretty much means that I go to cemeteries and spend time there. I end up cleaning off head stones, taking snapshots of every head stone, take notes for names for the stones that are too faded to properly catch in picture format (though a picture is still taken). I also leave offerings for the Deadz therein as well as clean up the place. I have a couple of Photobucket albums dedicated to my grave-tending duties, actually, and one day, I’ll have a page on here dedicated to that. (But not today.) After a six month absentee to this duty, I knew I had to get started again.

Part of the reason why it’s been so long since I’ve done my last duty is because New England is not terrific for taking this duty on. Since I do this in honor of the Ghede, specifically Papa and the Bawon, I only do this on certain days of the week, namely Saturday since this is their day. And since most New England winters bury the land in snow and ice, I don’t get much done during those months. In the summer, especially if the cemeteries are of a larger nature, I dehydrate faster than I can get water into me so I tend to abstain from the practice then, too. This leaves me with Spring and Autumn to conduct these duties. Since this last year I’ve been driving three hours to Rutland and back on Fridays and then doing it all over again on Sundays, I let the thing slide. Burning myself out didn’t seem like a wise idea.

And now, I don’t have those extraneous driving duties to perform, so guess what? It is definitely time to get back into this before winter hits.

Today, I chose to work on two cemeteries in Ludlow, Massachusetts. I chose the Sikes Cemetery and the East “Ould” Cemetery to conduct my duties out. Prior to getting started, I packed up my grave-tending basket with all of the items I could load it up with at home. This pretty much includes a spade, toothpicks, a brush, jars, plastic bags, booze, water, my camera, extra batteries, incense cones and tea lights, as well as any food offerings I think are proper. After that, I will occasionally make pit stops before going to pick up more food for offerings. Today, I added a large loaf of freshly baked bread and a bundle of flowers. I also added apples and grapes from my at-home stock to bring along with me.

The Sikes Cemetery is a mostly empty field. As taken from this website, “This is the oldest cemetery in the town and is located on Munsing Street. The land here was used as a burial ground even before it was given to the town for use as a cemetery in the 1770s. The cemetery has not been used since the early 19th century according to McChesney (in Noon’s book, he states that this cemetery is still being used as of 1911) and many of the bodies buried there no longer have a gravestone. This cemetery is very small and has an old stone wall around it, built in 1865.”

While I wouldn’t class it as small myself, I can see what the author was initially trying to say. There are very few head stones still standing in that place and it took me, maybe, fifteen minutes to photograph all of them. In fact, upon entering, I had to traverse the entire length of the cemetery to reach the first head stone. Since there was no head stone at the entrance, I didn’t pay for my entrance. These people didn’t seem to mind overmuch. Most of the head stones that have remained are all Sikes relatives. There were three stones that were so badly weathered that I could not read or tell the name. These three stones were also broken in half. It’s obvious that no one put any thought, energy, or time into this cemetery aside from posting Veteran flags at the proper places. It makes me wonder how many of the souls in that cemetery are still there – without a head stone, do they really have a place there any longer? I can’t say I’m “sensitive” or anything, but I didn’t feel any Deadz in there.

Most of the head stones were heavily covered in lichen. I ended up going back through them and writing down first names, years of death, ages of death, and any relationships they bore to related head stones. I don’t do this very often and this is a very new addition to my practice. I started doing this at the behest of my mother when she started nudging me about posting my pictures in a more public fora so that people who are looking for ancestors can at least see their graves, even if they’re across the country. Since I’m doing this work for them and not for me, it seems like a valid addition. Even though I took pictures of every head stone, I still had to go back and catalog who was who and number each notation of a name I made so that I could try to place them with the photos I had taken. The weathering and the lichen were just that bad.

I did try to clean them off as best I could. This is what the water and the tooth picks are for. With the tooth picks, I’ll trace out the pattern of the word beneath the lichen and then try to brush the rest of it away. This is actually what I spend a good deal of time doing. It seems that past generations were less caring about whether or not names were maintained on their head stones. This saddens and irritates me… as does the trash I found. This cemetery, being in the boonies, wasn’t as bad as some of them, but there was still some trash around. I picked the bits up and then set about prepping a place for my offering: half a loaf of bread, a nip of whiskey, flowers, grapes, and an apple. I offered them this to feed their souls.

After an hour, all said and done, I was ready to get to East “Ould” Cemetery.

As taken from the website I linked to above, “Also known as the “Ould Burying Ground,” this cemetery is perhaps one of the least known cemeteries in town as it is not near any main roads, similar to the Sikes cemetery. This cemetery lies off of Poole Street and is half in Ludlow and half in Belchertown. The first person buried here is Hannah Olds who died in 1802 and is on the Belchertown side. This cemetery is only used today for burials in existing family plots.”

This cemetery was actually bigger than I had originally thought it was. When the Sister originally found it for me, I took a drive up to find it so that I could remember where I would go when the weather cooled. (Guess what? I still had to do a Google search for it.) It’s very odd because it just pops up on the right after driving on a small two-lane road for what seems like forever. It’s also strange because one of the entrances abuts a person’s driveway. And in the distance is their field for grazing, as evidenced by the various cows and a donkey I saw walking by.

I settled down to get work done and ended up marveling at the whole place. It was large, the grass was spongy, and it was taken care of. Obviously, the locals tend to this place better than the Sikes Cemetery I went to. I was pleased. The problem I kept running into was that feeling that someone was trying to sneak up behind me. I also heard footsteps behind me on two separate occasions and someone running really fast, as well. I made sure to pay the first head stone I came to, but someone was playing games with me. Well. I don’t know if it was playful either. It was definitely odd and it left me slightly unsettled, but I’ve been unsettled in plenty of cemeteries before… no game-playing is going to stop me from my job.

However, what will is the death of my camera.

I was about a third of the way through when I came upon a particular head stone that caught my eye. It was a white marble head stone that had fallen over at some point. It had been left there for so long that the face that was pointing to the sky was completely weathered away. Intrigued, I lifted it up to see who was on the other side, but there was no name. It had completely worn away. I couldn’t name them; I couldn’t do anything. I did however play around with some of the pieces of the head stone that was left over. It was very interesting to play with marble without it, you know, being a part of a stone. Immediately after this head stone, I came across a man who had a very odd name. (His name was Purchase, but it wasn’t spelled that way.) I took a photo of the head stone, zooming in on the name, but the name got cut off. Annoying, I pulled the zoom out on my camera and the screen went dead.

I casually shut it off, turned it on, shut it off. Nothing. I pulled the batteries out, blew inside, and placed them back in there. They were still fresh, so what the hell? No matter what I did, I could not get it to work. “Whoever is doing this, stop, please,” I called across the cemetery. “I am here to feed your souls. Tend your graves. Clean you up. And make sure you are remembered. Don’t you want to be remembered?” I’m not joking when I say that trees went insane with the amount of wind that lashed through them. I heaved a sigh and said, “I will prep your meal for you and if the camera is still down after that, I will leave.” Nothing.

I went around preparing the meal I had in mind and left a flower at the grave of the man who I had last taken a picture of… just in case he was the one angry with all of this.

I try to at least be a little artistic when I do this.

After the incense was halfway burned through, I tried my camera again but it didn’t work. I shrugged it off and threatened to come back later. “You can’t stop me from this. I will make sure you are remembered,” I snapped angrily and stormed off to my car. When I got home, I gleefully went about uploading the pictures that I had double checked were still available on my memory card. Even though the screen was going dead, preventing me from taking a picture, I could still check the pictures on the playback. (Weird!) I handed the camera off to TH to inspect and we discovered that my faithful grave-tending companion was now truly dead. With nothing left but to start at least looking for a replacement, I began the long process of downloading 260 pictures to my laptop.

And ten of them, from the Sikes Cemetery, were downloaded. I only discovered this, of course, after I deleted them from the memory card, which I do immediately after they’re placed on my laptop since it makes my life easier to do a mass delete like that. And I had watched the process as it took hours to download (my laptop is not in the best shape, either). I had seen the pictures erasing and there were images being shown instead of blank, stock images. So, as far as I can tell, 260 images were taken from my memory card and then, disappeared. I am very upset by this and I’m trying not to believe that I really am cursed with electronics or that some nasty little spirit is fucking with me. (However, I’ve had the Deadz fuck with my camera before just because they felt like it or to see what would happen before and this feels similar.)

This is not going to stop me. I am planning on going back to redo both cemeteries in the next week. (Even though I prefer to do this on Saturdays in honor of the Bawon and Papa G, I will return to cemeteries that I owe things to whenever.) And no matter what the hell happens, East “Ould” will be done and uploaded. And I will be gleeful.

Visiting my Veteran Deadz.

Today is Memorial Day and the first time in quite a while that I have gone to visit my father. He’s been dead since 1990. As a child, we didn’t visit often because the wound was still too fresh for my mother. And, as a single parent, it’s difficult to corral two children while going to visit your dead husband, possibly break down about it, and various other little things I can’t think of or take into account at the moment. So, we didn’t go often. When I moved back up here with MEH, I went periodically. It’s only been as I began to pay closer attention to duties in grave-tending that I’ve actually begun to visit him on a regular basis. I’m hoping that the lapse in recent months is an irregularity as opposed to anything else. I guess we’ll find out in future.

I pulled into the cemetery and was gratified to see a veritable sea of flags in each section of the cemetery. Some had more flags than others. My father is buried in a section that does not boast many flags, but a decent amount I suppose. Across the way, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App there is practically a flag on every grave and down the hill a piece, there is maybe a handful in that section. But, to drive by them, and see them all waving in the air was heart-lifting. It made me feel good to see them. When I parked in the section where my father is buried, I could immediately pick out his grave. He has this thing where he likes to be different. My mom swears up and down that it wasn’t until after we moved down south that grass really began to grow on his grave. And without fail, every time there is a holiday where flags are distributed, he invariably gets one angled into the ground where he is buried. They also tend to be more off to the side of his head stone as opposed to centered in front of it. Laughing, I posted on FB that I was “visiting the man with the angled flag.” I would have moved it to a more central location, but evidently, he likes to be different.

After I settled in to saying hello, I cleared back the grass that was crowding around his headstone. I can see that his grass has not come in perfect. A lot of it is already dying, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App even though we’re only a few weeks into “summer.” But, for some reason, the grass likes to overcrowd his headstone so that you have to push it back to get a good image. I ended up cutting it away, brushing down the mess I made, pushed back the dirt at the corners so there is a little more space, and then brushed away the mess again. When I felt content with that, I sat back and looked at the sky for a while. I was looking for peace and I was looking for answers. I was looking for a perfect moment and I was brooding as well. It was like I was a mixed creature at that moment, looking for two things that would bring solace. At that moment, I was in one place and another. I was here and not here. I don’t know how that happened, but when I realized I had some things to do, I set about getting my offerings going. I broke up some bread and spread it around his grave. I felt him grumbling and I told him softly, “Who else to feed your soul? And I only have bread to do so.” I then left him some water. My father was an alcoholic in life so I do not bring him alcoholic offerings. I then lit a candle, which went out at some point, and some incense. He liked the incense.

Then, I did something I wasn’t sure he was going to like.

A long while back, in fact I believe it was last September, I had managed to acquire the Tarot of the Dead. I’ve never used them before, but I was instructed to only use them when I’m working with the Deadz. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but I never felt like it was the “right time” to use them. So, they stayed in my basket and waited to be pulled out. Finally, today, I felt that it was a good idea. Now, in life, my father did not hold to any of that “New Age stuff.” He burned my mother’s Tarot cards and tossed out her Ouija board when they got together. (And many other things besides.) He would have none of that under his roof, I suppose. I can only wonder exactly what he would think of my life style right now if he was still alive… Heh. So, I pulled out my cards and said, “We can communicate better this way. I know how you felt about them. You don’t have to use Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App them.” So, I did a three card pull after I shuffled for a while. The cards are big and colored in pastels, for the most part. I wasn’t focusing on anything, but the outcome to my cards could either be interpreted as my father telling me things I already knew or answers about something else that I didn’t realize I was thinking about. I have to do a reading with the Fairy Oracle tonight to figure that out.

After that, I put the cards away and sat there until the incense cone had burned out. (I’m going to have to figure something for that. I don’t have a travel holder and I’m not sure if I prefer having a cone on a grave or if I’d like a stick of incense with holder on a grave. Decisions, decisions.) I sat back and stared off into space, wondering why he was dead. Was it folly? Was it escapism? If it was just something silly and foolish, then I could be angry with him still, I think. I wouldn’t hate him or anything, but I could understand the occasional flashes of anger I get in regards to him, his death, and my being father-less by seven, after only getting one by three. I could, too, understand my little brother’s anger at this, as well. But, as I sat there, asking the questions in circles in my head, I began to think that maybe… maybe he’s like Jenny from Forrest Gump: always looking for something to hide the horrors deep within. And I have the feeling that’s the case, which makes it sad… so much more sadder now than it was a day ago, or last week, or five years ago, or the day after he died.

I’ll tell you something.

Working with the Deadz has made me realize just how completely fallible I am, as a human being, in a mortal way. But, it’s also helped me to set aside a lot of the anger and irritation I feel when I think of my father dying on me. He had permission to go, at the end, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Why didn’t he just stop? Why couldn’t he stop being so stupid? Why didn’t he think for once? But. I know that this is probably as far from the case as possible. He was hiding from whatever monster was eating his heart and soul. And so doing, died for it.

I miss him. There are days when all I want more than anything is to crawl into his arms and say, “Daddy. I’m hurting. Fix it, please.” I don’t know if he ever would have or could have. I didn’t know him long enough or well enough to know how far he would go to protect me and aid me. And though my mother did a really good job taking over the dual roll parenting, I still want my daddy there sometimes. Bony, black-haired man with a fondness for flannel shirts, never willing to smile, and always behind the camera instead of in front.

The Continuing Adventures of the Angry Deadz.

So, yesterday, I met up with one of the angriest human beings I have ever had the displeasure of knowing… in angry Deadz form. (Link to previous post below.) I’ve never liked this person, to be honest. George has always been kind of irritating to me. I watched and listened as he lorded his power over his tiny wife, who was ten years his junior. For example, Gramma went downstairs to relight the pilot on the water heater. The gas had, apparently, been going for a while. She stuck a match in there and WHOOSH! Her hands and her flimsy nightgown caught on fire. She was able to put it out but asked George to take her to the hospital. He didn’t like to drive, but after she “whined” about it for “long enough,” he did so. He bitched her out there, at the hospital, and all the way back. It was like it was her fault that she had caught on fire and he made sure to make her feel like that. She would go down to the basement to escape him often. And when she told the story, she mentioned repeatedly that it “was” her “fault.” When Gramma got up the balls to kick him out, I was her biggest cheerleader.

The thing is that the two of them were both very stubborn people. Gramma is one hundred percent French and George was mostly Italian. So, they were both fairly explosive together. But, the thing is that after time had passed and George was diagnosed with cancer, I urged her to go and forgive him. I knew that he wasn’t going to make this disease last as long as everyone said he would. He was tired and angry. He was kicked out of his home and forced to live with the son that he had long since denied existed. And I didn’t want her to forgive him because he deserved it, but because I had seen what the power of forgiveness (or not giving it) can do to people. My ex-husband forgave his step-father for a VERY large offense after years of refusing to do so (and let me tell you, he had absolutely no reason to do so except that I urged him to it) because it would make him a better person and you know what? It did do just that. And I wanted her to forgive him for the wrongs he had committed so that she would stop being so angry and taking it out improperly. But she never listened and he died without mending that fence on his own.

I’m not sure if it’s that part that makes him part of the angry Deadz or if it’s just in his nature. From the bits I’ve heard about George as a youth, he’s always been abusive in some form or another.

And let me just say that this was the first time I have ever come face-to-face with an angry Deadz before. It had never happened to me. Sure, I had met up with an entire pissed off cemetery, but it didn’t have any baring on me. There was no emotional connection with the people in that cemetery. And really, they were pissed off about being ignored and left abandoned. Whereas with George, he has years’ worth of angst built up. And as I said to someone at some point, he’s only been dead since October of last year. He hasn’t had long enough to realize the damage he’s wrought and that no one is willing to forgive him for it yet. So, really, I was utterly blind-sided by the fact that he was so pissed off… or that he’d take it out on me.

I’m the only person who will, probably, visit him ever. I am the only one who would leave offerings and clean the lichen from his stone. But, he got pissed off and snarky. He slammed that anger into me and I let it get the best of me all the way home and after. While I was feeling upset to my stomach and over-heated, I asked people what to do. I didn’t know how to cleanse and I’m not big on that. Sure, it’s something I should know after years of this stuff, right? But, I’m not so good at any of the basics. I should get better and I should study, but it’s not so much as important for me, at the moment. But, at least know, thanks to Camylleon and Cin, I know what to do the next time I’m spiritually assaulted by some pissed off ghost.

The first suggestion was simple and easy: take a shower. And just let all of that negatively drain right the hell down the drain. I’ve done this before, but usually it hasn’t had much effect on me. It’s not because I suck at it (though maybe that is the reason) but that things always get crowded into my headspace. I was worried about that happening, so we chatted a bit. I suggested Florida water and Cam said that was a good idea. Cin recommended that I rub an egg all over my body and then throw it as far away from me as possible. She said it was old folk magic, or something related. Cam seconded the recommendation. And of course, as if all of this didn’t matter, there was always the salt method. So, with these new weapons added to my repertoire, I went to take a steaming hot shower.

I said to myself, You’re not welcome here. You’re not going to be in here. I don’t want this. This isn’t me anymore. I used to be a very angry person. I would break things because I was in such a rage and I needed to let it out. It’s part of the reason why I was a cutter for so many years, but not entirely. I would rant and rave over the tiniest little aggravations, so I knew what it was like to be so pissed off. But, I calmly willed it all to leave. I didn’t need to feel that way any longer. I didn’t want to feel that way any longer. I continued with my silent pleas, I’m working a more virtuous lifestyle here. This anger and irritation is no good. It’s just no good. And then I closed my eyes and thought the word mawat.

From my readings, this is actually an ancient Egyptian word. It’s supposed to signify “mother” if I recall correctly. I thought that word and I felt a woman beside me. I was leaning against the wall with my head bowed as I began to feel drained, emotionally and otherwise. The woman had a headdress of a vulture atop her head. And I felt so very content to be in her presence. She reached around and gave me a long, deep hug. It didn’t mean anything. It was just an I’m here; I’m listening kind of moment. It was peaceful and thrilling. It was definitely a very important moment and not just because it made me feel better. It was definitely a clarifying of a bit of that dream I had (link below). She’s definitely around and Mut is definitely listening. I feel more relaxed just talking about it. I thought about the salt when I was in her arms and realized that salt probably wouldn’t be good for my skin. But when I thought about the Florida water, she seemed positive about that.

So, I climbed out of the shower and got dressed. I pulled my unopened bottle of Florida water out of its home in the cabinet. I opened it up and my son came over, asking me what I was doing. (The second I open those blue doors, he’s all over me. He wants to know about my stone collection and play with the tree limb I have stashed in there.) I opened up the bottle and let him take a sniff. “That smells awful,” he said. I told him that I thought it smelled delightful. And then, I anointed myself. I placed some in three places across the back of my neck, care of Cam’s experience with something similar that she had written about once. I also placed some on each wrist, my third eye, and over my heart. On top of feeling completely relaxed by this point, I couldn’t help but realize that I fucking love the smell of this stuff and I think I want to keep a bottle in my grave-tending kit. I also want to spray some on my bed and see how that works out. I can imagine the dreams I would have!

After that, I was exhausted. I felt like I had been up and on the go since four o’clock this morning, but I had only gotten up after ten or so. When I mentioned this on Twitter, Cam reminded me that I had been through a lot on lack of sleep and had a major personal gnosis moment. She said it seemed kind of normal. And Cin was pleased that I was feeling so much better. So, right here: THANK YOU, TO THE BOTH OF YOU. <3

I’ve learned a big couple of lessons. I have a very old goddess who is willing to just give me a hug when I need it most. I have a very angry dead person in my family who will not be getting a visit any time soon. I learned that Florida water is fucking phenomenal and I have to find a place, locally, where I can buy it. And I also learned, sadly, that George’s anger is still just as strong within the family lines as it was when he was alive. I’ll let you in on a family secret here: there’s a kind of curse.

Wait. What?

Gramma told me this story when I was still pregnant with my son. This was after we had learned he was a boy and were looking to names. The family is pretty stuck on the same names: Anthony and George. Each male in the line (of which there are not many for who knows what reason) has had some form of combination of these names. TH is Anthony George. His father is George Anthony, as his father was before him. (As near as I can figure.) Gramma told me that all men in the line with variations on these names tend to be angry, snappish, brutish men with horrible lives. She told me that there was a curse on the line and specifically, on the name. She said that it just kept going on and begged me to “end it.” So, I named my son Rowan, which was no sweat off my back since I had chosen that name at 20 or some such. That curse is anger. It is a white hot rage, very much like I experienced today. And as I asked TH some questions about his grandfather in trying to write this, I noticed that barely concealed rage. My mellow, loving TH has that rage inside of him. He fights it, but he fights it alone because he doesn’t believe as I do or as Gramma does or as his mother does.

I only hope he’ll let me in when it starts to get too much for him.

Relevant Posts

  1. Visiting my Deadz PT 2
  2. Dreaming Ties All Mankind Together

Visiting My Deadz PT 2, May Visit.

I thought today would be a fantastic day to get the hell out of the house and do some work with my Deadz. I have never gone to visit my grandmother on my mother’s side and TH’s grandfather is buried within the same cemetery. I figured, two birds with one stone. It was supposed to be a peaceful, thrilling ride that would end with offerings left and a peaceful, serene feeling throughout. As you can probably tell from the tenses I’m using here, that didn’t fucking happen.

I had no idea where the cemetery was to begin with. I got directions via the Internet because I’m not the kind of person who has something fancy and easy like GPS on my phone. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to have these things, but I was an idiot while phone shopping. I got stuck on the desire for a keyboard as opposed to a good phone. I ended up with a fairly shitty phone that only has a very tiny allotment of space in its memory banks: what do you expect, right? It’s a floor model phone. The thing is that this phone is notorious for not letting you have apps on it and that when it hits a magic number, it will not let you do a damn thing (text, receive messages, check your E-mail, or get voice mail, etc.). This means that you have to remove your apps or remove the updates and watch as your memory inexplicably grows toward the magic number again, causing a reset. It’s a piece of shit. So, suffice it to say, I don’t have GPS.

But, I have an infallible sense of direction… as long as I kind of know where I’m heading. I had no fucking idea where I was heading.

So, I ended up having to stop and get directions. I was almost positive that I had taken the wrong direction when getting off of the off-ramp, but I wasn’t positive. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts and inquired about where the cemetery was. They sent me in the complete opposite direction from where I had to go. They sent me to some other cemetery that had no bearing on anything. After turning around, I earmarked a future cemetery that is circa 1820 or thereabouts. It’s very small and looks incredibly worn and in need of love. On my way back from accidentally heading into some other town, I stopped at a gas station and asked about directions. She sent me in the wrong direction, as well, but yet another uplift to the already hour-long journey was yet another old cemetery that is circa 1774 or thereabouts. That one is much bigger and going to take hours to pay attention to, but looks like it’s in better shape than the other I accidentally found.

After turning around in Suffield, Connecticut, I gritted my teeth and tried not to let my irritation get to me. I’m used to getting lost or driving completely by the cemeteries I’m looking for. For some reason, this whole trip was pissing me off. I had been driving for about an hour and a half at this point. As I was driving back down Main Street and glowering at Six Flags (the cemetery is, practically, diagonal from Six Flags), I happened to look to my left and what do you know? I had driven right by the damn thing. Excited and thrilled, I went barreling in like a bat out of hell. (Slight over exaggeration: I patiently waited until I could make a U-turn down a side street and sedately drove the speed limit to get into the cemetery, but the exaggeration sounds cooler.)

I pulled up to the administration building. Unlike with my grandmother on my father’s side, I had no idea where my grandmother was buried. She’s buried at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in the area. So think of a smaller scale version of Arlington. When you go to bury someone at the cemetery, you are not taken to the graveside with flowers strewn about. You are ushered into this private little chapel where kind words are spoken, moments of thought are had, and flowers are casually strewn about. So, I had no idea where to find my grandmother (or TH’s grandfather, for that matter). But the administration building (and the cemetery, actually) are all new and innovative and state of the art. Instead of having to ask someone to aid me, there was an awesome little touch screen device that lets you do a search by last name. Writing down the directions to both grave sides, I went driving around to find their sections.

Now, I wanted to see my grandmother first. I haven’t been near her since we said good-bye in 2005. I had no such relationship, or desire really, to see TH’s grandfather. (More in a minute.) I wanted to find my grandmother and have a private moment with her. I ended up finding my grandmother’s section right away. Since I was already in the car, I figured I’d look for TH’s grandfather’s section as well. Except that there weren’t any sections that were clearly labeled with his. For example, my grandmother is buried in section 3C, which is directly across from the administration building. TH’s grandfather was in a section entitled “WE.” I had no fucking clue what that meant, but there were men wandering around and doing cleaning up duty. I figured once I found my grandma, I could ask.

And yet another adventure was had.

I had no idea how to find my grandmother.

I had the section to hand and I had the row number and even the site number. I counted down the rows until I felt that I was in what they had labeled as “section L.” And I walked up and down that row twice, but there was nothing about my grandmother. I went down the row a third time, getting irritated and worried. What if I wasn’t paying attention to things properly? What if I was delusional? What if I had just wasted all of my gas? That’s when I noticed that there were little discreet numbers on the back of each tombstone. The one in front of me ready something like, 3A K 245. Frowning, I looked at the other tombstones around me and wouldn’t you know? They all had them. It became much easier to find my grandmother.

I guess my grandpa is taking care of her in death as he did in life.

After that, I waltzed over to the men who were doing their work. Very kindly, they sent me in the direction of TH’s grandfather.

Plain and simple is always best.

I’ve never had much of a relationship with TH’s grandfather and as far as I can tell, the relationship between the two of them was extremely strained. TH is on of the most mellow people you will ever meet, but it’s difficult to maintain a care-free relationship with someone like his grandfather. He was mean, spiteful, angry, irritating, bitchy, and a drunk. He liked to beat on his ex-wife. I knew from the get-go that I didn’t like George and I’m not too sure how he felt about me. Still, he is a part of my family and he has a place on my familial shrine. I reached out and touched his plaque and felt the most white-hot rage I have ever felt in my life. There was a burning sensation from my hand all the way up to my bicep and into my shoulder. Actually, as I write this, I can kind of feel little leftovers of his death rage.

The man is fucking angry.

I stumbled away and went home. I was so angry and pissed off on the way home. I was angry with the drive and the getting lost (again) as I tried to leave. I was pissed that there were cars in front of me and I was irritated that my car was making funny noises. I wanted to punch someone in the fucking place and put on loud music instead. When I got home, I immediately started yelling at TS for doing what he always does when I come home from somewhere. I was so fucking pissed off and angry and that’s when I realized that I was… feeding in or tapped into George’s white hot rage. I can still feel it, like I said, in my arm and in my head. It’s like a buzzing nest of bees. I’m planning on taking a nap, but I can assure everyone: I will not be visiting that cold, selfish bastard ever again.

Visiting My Deadz, May Visit.

A while back, I was whining about not seeing any of my Deadz in a long time. It was one of those times when all you really wanted to do was whine about things, really. I knew that I’d get around to seeing my grandparents, in some form or another, at some point in my life. It was just a matter of figuring out when and where and why and how. After my shit day yesterday, I was kind of thinking that working on things outside of my control (like fixing the insurance issue) wasn’t something I was willing to deal with today. You know how sometimes you know that you have pressing issues that should be taken care of but you just can’t be buggered to try to figure it all out? That’s how I felt this morning when I woke up. I realized that I needed to spend time for myself and in so doing, I decided it was time to see my grandmother and papa, after not seeing them in years.

And by years, I mean since they were buried in the cemetery. I had seen my grandmother’s grave when we buried her, obviously, since I was there. I remember driving to the cemetery in the back of Papa’s truck and thinking that was all right. (I was nine, at the time, so it was cool.) My great-grandmother, from Papa’s side, was buried in that cemetery as well. So, when she died when I was in my teens, I believe it was in 2000 or thereabouts, we stopped off to say a quick hello to my grandmother. And to be perfectly honest, I can’t remember stopping off at the cemetery to visit my Papa after he was buried at all. (There was a lot of family drama after my great-grandmother died and before my Papa went to join her and Gramma.) So, I hadn’t been to this cemetery in nearly ten years, if not more. I had vague recollections of where we had buried Gramma and I knew Papa was nearby and I was pretty sure I could diagonal my way over to Great-Grandma (who we called “Aunt Florence”) after the fact.

I was wrong.

I was so wrong.

My uncle, who works in the area, had told me that if I got lost or needed help, then I should give him a call. I wanted to try to find my grandmother on my own. I was looking back to Veggiewolf and her posting about visiting her loved ones. I had brought some bread, some water, some pennies (to pay the guardians) and the book by Richard Reidy. I didn’t think I would do anything like the ritual that’s in the book, but I brought it along just in case. I was setting off with the distinct idea that I was going to give to my grandparents (and hopefully, my Aunt Florence) the way a Kemetic would. I appreciate and love everything that the Vodou aspect to my practice has given to me, but right now, the Kemetic felt better than the Vodou stuff. But, I didn’t end up doing any of that because I couldn’t find my grandparents.

I went wandering along the gravestones that are towards the front of the cemetery, looking for a records office. And you know what? They don’t have one. There were two buildings in the Jewish area of the cemetery, which is right next door. But the only building at Saint Thomas Cemetery was the one that housed all of the lawn-mowing equipment. I was getting frustrated with my faulty memory. I mean, I know that we had buried my grandmother towards the back of the cemetery–why couldn’t I find her, then? While I waltzed up and down the rows for about a while, I stumbled upon something that Photobucket was just as startling. I ended up finding a tombstone with my name emblazoned upon it. And it was really intricately done. I was startled and shocked because I wasn’t expecting it. Sure, I knew I had family in the area. I saw a few headstones with the name Davis on it, which stems from my maternal grandmother’s side (not the side of the family I was visiting) of the family. I thought about taking a picture, but it wasn’t until I saw my name, which I got because it’s a family name, that I pulled my camera out and took a picture. I posted a quicker version on my Facebook and my mom immediately texted me, “What are their names?” She still has access to our old family album of genealogical information.

And yep, it seems that they’re related to us in some way.

Photobucket I kept waltzing up and down, looking for the LeFleur name. It was neat and unexpected to find some distant relation of mine, but I had a purpose. I needed to find my grandmother and my papa. I needed to find my great-grandmother, if that was even possible. I kept looking for a big monument that would tell me that it was Florence and Edward. I kept hoping that I would find them, but I ended up stumbling upon a second monument that my mom is pretty sure is also from our Aubrey relations. The family there is still kicking (apparently, they decided it was time to plunk down for a plot and their headstone?) around, as alive as could be. But I thought it was pretty neat and possibly of merit so I snapped another picture.

I was almost near tears by this point. I was so disappointed in myself and I was so upset. Why couldn’t I find my damn grandparents? I ended up calling my uncle John and saying, “I can’t find Gramma!” He started laughing at me and poking fun at me. “You misplaced your grandmother,” he cried. I laughed and asked if he could help. He told me he was on his way. (Owning your own business can be pretty awesome at times, although not really during a recession… especially if it’s a printing business. But, still.) He came on by and said that it had been a while since he had seen either Gramma or Papa. He said that he was pretty sure she was over in this direction, but all the headstones (flat ones) were facing the wrong way. He was sure she faced the opposite of all the ones we were finding. “Well, she always was a trend-setter, right?” I asked. He laughed and we kept walking and don’t you know, we finally found them.

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On the left is my Papa. His epitaph reads, “A Man Who Loved Steam.” My Papa used to build cars from the ground up, one of which was a Stanley Steamer. He also rebuilt old clocks and whistles, but he was most famous around town (literally) for his Stanley Steamer. You could hear it screeching streets away whenever he let it go full steam. It was a beautiful cherry red and it was a real treat to go for a ride in his Stanley Steamer. I remember that we couldn’t put our feet on the floor boards because it could get so hot. It’s a good memory. On the right is my grandmother, which reads: “Beloved Wife of Edward F LeFleur, Mother of Richard (my dad), Alan, Carol, Susan, John; Her laughter was as warm as our memory of her.” And as my uncle pointed out, her epitaph goes hand-in-hand with her post on my personal blog.

Instead of giving a traditional offering, my uncle and I gave the offering of memory. He told me about how he found Papa, dead, and that it was not amusing then, though it is a funny story now. We talked about my dad and my grandmother. He told me about some juicy gossip in regards to my grandmother (SHE WAS STILL MARRIED TO MY GRAMPA WHEN SHE MARRIED MY PAPA!!!!!!). We talked about the family drama that happened between Papa and all of us after the death of my grandmother. He told me that, for some odd reason, Papa’s family changed their name at some point. He thinks it’s because they were wanted by the mob and I said that maybe they were German during WWII. Though, I did not give bread and water. Though I did not give incense and fire. Though I did none of the things I had intended, I’m glad I went and things happened as they did. The gift of memory, sometimes, is more important than the gift of food and libation.

This has cemented my desire to go back and visit, regularly. And this has cemented my resolve to go to my maternal grandmother and find her. And this has cemented my intention of finding my great-grandmother and her husband. And this has cemented my intention of continuing my grave-tending until I can no longer get down on my hands and knees to clean, to take pictures, and to love.

Relevant Posts

  1. What’s All This Stuff About the Akhu, Anyway?
  2. Cemetery Visiting by Veggiewolf.
  3. Reminiscing: The Grandmother Who Not Mine at DON’T PANIC.

The Fence Around a Cemetery is Foolish…

“…for those inside can’t get out and those outside don’t want to get in.”
– Arthur Brisbane

I have to admit that I am really getting into this whole grave-tending spiel. I can really say clearly that I feel comfortable and happy to go. I get this antsy feeling in the center of my stomach, akin to the butterflies everyone is aware of, because I just want to get there NOW and do my thing. I remember, not long ago, The Sister mentioned that she felt my grave-tending was a kind of centering and/or grounding ritual for myself. And I think that she maybe right about that. I feel connected. I feel pleasant. I feel more in tune with things. And I feel pretty damn thrilled that I did this whole thing.

Even though I figured that a grave-tending kit would get me out of the house faster, I Photobucket can definitely attest that, sadly, that didn’t end up happening this time around. I found myself dithering around the house, trying to see if there was anything I felt like I was missing or anything that I felt I should add to my kit, if anything. For the most part, the kit is finished. However, obviously, there are little tweaks and whatnot that I will end up doing as time passes. A significant positive aspect to the basket is that it is also incredibly useful to stash important items (wallet or phone) while doing my business.

When I was a kid, we used to drive past this cemetery all of the time. It’s on an Photobucket exceedingly busy thoroughfare. I can remember driving by it all the time and thinking how much I wanted to go in there. (It’s amazing how much of my current choices can be reflected in things that I wanted very badly as a child, such as visiting random cemeteries even back then.) I also remember that I have never seen anyone inside that cemetery. Obviously, I didn’t keep an eye on it at every minute of every day. It’s exceedingly possible that people stopped by and took care of things, but I remember thinking that the cemetery was lonely, sad, angry, and upset that it had been forgotten. And in reality, it has been forgotten.

Though it lives on a very busy road, it is forgotten between the mini-strip mall, the pediatrician across the way, and the fast food restaurants a ways down the road. It is Photobucket forgotten because it faces bramble at the back of the property. It is forgotten because the fence is imposing and dark. It is imposing because it leaves a pall around the area, even in the summer time in the middle of the day with the sun pouring bright down around you. It is forgotten because no one thought that a place where we store the Deadz would need to be remembered. The feeling in this cemetery says otherwise. This is what will one day be one of those busy, hot spots that kids go to in order to frighten one another. Or, perhaps, they will listen to their gut instinct and realize that if they go inside so late at night, only bad can come of it.

I really don’t want to sound so very dire about this place, but honestly, it was just… an indescribable mutation of so many emotions in there. I felt sadness and depression; bitterness; hatred; anger and malice. The overwhelming feeling, though, of the entire cemetery was a just a very negative pall that I tried very hard with my kind words, my camera flashes, and my offerings to put to rest. I don’t think it matters how often I go; I doubt I will ever be able to rid this place of its miasma of dark and foreboding feelings.

I was very upset at the lack of care I found when I first arrived. There was trash bits all over the place. I’m going to have to go back and just do a serious clear there. I know it will be next to useless since it’s so close to a Wendy’s and a McDonald’s, but I have to at least try. Something to show the Deadz that they have not been forgotten.

I think of all of the tombstones that I found, the worst was the one I have pictured in this paragraph. It was like this was the absolute and utter quintessence tombstone of Photobucket the entire graveyard. The moment I saw it lying there, I knew that this was the personification of how all of the Deadz felt in that graveyard. While people are willing to love and tend the larger graveyards and the graveyards that are found in the outlying towns, but no one will bother to take care of this place. Looking down at it and seeing how cracked and broken it was, watching as the earth slowly devoured more and more every year… It was like the Deadz there are just merely waiting for that magical moment when the tallest monument has fallen and has been swallowed up by the earth.

I gave my oranges to whom I felt were the Bawon and the Maman of the graveyard. I Photobucket know that I’m supposed to leave it for the oldest graves in the yard, but considering all of the weathering going on… it would have been impossible to find out who was dead the longest. I also, surreptitiously, poured out my rum offering on those graves. I think I may have heard the Bawon say, “SHARING?!? WHAT?!?” Just in case I wasn’t imagining things, I was quick to say, “She’s your wife. The least you can do is give her some rum.” As it was, he got most of the bottle and the larger portion of the orange. I left my bread crumbs back near the trees for the birds to pick up.

All in all, this cemetery is the first that I have tended that has felt this way. I don’t tend Photobucket to get too many feelings from graveyards. The only ones I usually get are the ones that I, myself, feel. In this graveyard, however, it was such a thick miasma that even the most spirit blind (such as myself) would be able to feel it. This cemetery, I feel, will become one of my more regular cemeteries, as in a weekly assignation as opposed to monthly. I can only hope that the good, positive feelings that I emote to the Deadz there is enough to make them see that I am there, I am there to help, and that I am there to redeem the zillions of other fucking assholes who have forgotten about that cemetery.

And once again, I’m left with the knowledge that if grave-tending is as important in my [future] practice as I think it is, I really will have to find a job that allows for an hour/hour-and-a-half long break.