I know the people aren't there anymore...just a few old mouldering bones...but I still think visiting someone's grave is a good thing to do.
What brought this on you are no doubt wondering...I've just read a blog about going to Heaven and so on...and then it came round to visiting graves and having a bit of a chat with the departed. And the gist of it was that it's pretty daft to do that when the person isn't there anymore.
Actually, I'll very often have a few words with total strangers...or I'll have a bit of the craic while trawling round an old graveyard with some old bod I didn't know from Adam himself.
Just supposing, for the sake of argument, that the spirit of that long dead soul is hovering about...hoping against hope that a passerby will stop and have a kindly word...I have sort of homed in if you like on a particular grave for no real reason and I'll sit there and wonder out loud what the person was like and did they have a good family and then I'll pat the headstone and move on...
Sort of cousin Des takes a big bunch of flowers into the graveyards he visits when he's looking for the family graves and leaves some flowers at each one...they might well have been dead for the past two hundred years but it's just the thought behind it isn't it? It's an acknowledgement of their life and a remembrance now they are no longer here.
You don't have to be morbid about it...no-one is suggesting you need to weep and wail and wring your hands in despair...if by chance the spirit of the dead person is still there, it would make them feel awful guilty to have you so distressed and they would no doubt be itching to tell you to get a feckin' grip of yourself and to quit your selfishness.
Because isn't grieving ever so slightly selfish...are we always thinking about the person gone or are we actually thinking about ourselves and how we'll cope without them and how awful that they went first and left us on our own. It's different when a young person dies...of course it is, because all we can see is that they left the world before their lives had been properly lived...but when it is someone old and perhaps frail and had maybe been ill, then are we not simply thinking of ourselves as we grieve for their passing?
I personally have a serious hatred for plastic flowers on graves...those bloody foul wreaths of brightly coloured carnations give me the feckin' willies...and when they are simply left for year after year after year to fade in the sun and become broken and scattered about, I stamp my feet and gather them all up and leave them on the grave they came from and mutter under my breath about uncaring relatives...I right the little plastic figures of Jesus from where they've fallen over and re-light the perpetual candles and have all too often distributed the small Jesus' from an coffin to someone who has nothing on their grave at all.
Not to ever visit your person seems altogether wrong...unless they were truly horrible...but then I might well go to make quite sure they were still where they'd been put in the first place.
Then there is reincarnation...coming back as a worm doesn't appeal to me much...but of course you can't choose how or what you'll come back as. I have grave doubts about reincarnation anyway...
But where do souls go to? If you are a Christian then you'll believe they go to Heaven...or Hell...but if you aren't Christian then it gets a bit of a muddle because the air must be thick with the souls of those who've died...do they stay around the place where they were buried or do they somehow move on elsewhere...bearing in mind burial grounds and graves hold three times as many people as are recorded then it's a wonder we can move through the miasma of the centuries.
Perhaps it is no wonder that some graveyards have an air of ghostliness about them.
I'll continue having a bit of a chat to a man who died in 1711 and is buried alongside his brother in a remote graveyard in the middle of nowhere...I'll still redistribute the small plastic figures of Jesus and the Holy Mother so that everyone gets one...and I'll still gather up the faded plastic flowers and try to rearrange them on the grave for which they were intended.
There is no harm in visiting the graves of the departed...there is no harm in leaving a small bunch of flowers and sitting awhile beside their stone and telling them what's been going on...
Perhaps they might hear us...perhaps they don't...