Bonaventure Cemetery-Savannah, Georgia
From as far back as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the history and many stories that quietly reside in the many cemeteries around the world. Not a ghoulish, or morbid fascination, but a curiosity and wonderment of the architecture, vegetation, history, and symbolism. One might say that there is an untold story under every stone (tombstone) pun intended. Whether it be famous well known final resting places like Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, or even Greenwood Cemetery, and Swan Lake Cemetery in my home town of Michigan City, Indiana. Before I go any further, let me make it clear that in my after life, I hope to spend absolutely no time in any of these grave sites. Cremate me, and sprinkle my ashes over the rushing waters of Niagara Falls (Horseshoe Falls on the American side.) But I digress. My most recent grave yard visit was over Thanksgiving 2016. The Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. A creepy spooky, wonderfully manicured, and maintained piece of real estate. The stories of legend, family conflicts, superstitions, folklore, and urban legend are endless and in some cases un-nerving. One in particular got my attention. the Lawton family burial plot. It seems they had a daughter, who could best be described as wayward, or difficult. Family members are lined up in an orderly manner, but her plot is a short distance from the others and is marked by a statue of a her sitting down with her back turned to the others. The tour guide said it was symbolic of her eternal defiance even in the after life.. She took her anger to the grave. The tour guide told mysterious stories about Bonaventure's ties to The DaVinci Code,
Harry Potter, and the tantalizing connections to musician Johnny Mercer. Also how the classic non-fiction novel Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil written by John Berendt, an author who could best be described as quirky. And that would be the polite word. Kevin Spacey, and John Cusack would later star in a movie based on the book. The Bonaventure's 1750's plantation history adds to it's mystique. Angolan slaves who did much of the heavy lifting and leg work left their marks on this scared southern ground, but you have to look closely and know something about the American slave trade to identify the discreet trail they left behind.
And then there is the grave of Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell located at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Since I live in the Atlanta area, I have visited this final resting place many times. It is second to none when it comes to history, mystery, and drop dead (pardon the pun) gorgeous architecture, plants, and eerie surroundings. I was never a big fan of Gone With The Wind, but I have become a big fan of Margaret Mitchell, who although somewhat discreetly was one of the early civil and human rights advocates. Mrs. Mitchell gave secretly but generously to black colleges and universities at a time when it was not popular to do so. I respect her courage, and strength to live life in a manner she thought it should be lived. By the way. Gone With The Wind was her only novel.
So I continue to explore the nations cemeteries with wonderment, amazement and never ending curiosity. In the introduction of my book Swagger, The Life And Times Of Rick Whitlow. I refer to a short story called "The Dash." It is about a person who is walking through a cemetery admiring the various grave stones. On most there is a birth date, and a death date. Between the two is a "Dash" on which is where the person lived their life. Ups, downs, good and bad. Their flash of time on this speck of dust that we call earth. It is on that "Dash" where we all live our lives.