Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery Is How I Do Tourism

At the end of Mom 2.0 Summit in Atlanta, I had a few hours to kill before my trip back to Canada, so I got together with my friend Heather, who always brings the promise of good food and site-seeing. She delivered with crazy fantastic onion rings at Six Feet Under and a photo walk through Oakland Cemetery.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved cemeteries. I found a peace and a calm in those places that existed nowhere else for me. Whenever we visited the town my grandparents lived in, I harboured a secret excitement, because there was a cemetery right at the edge on the other side of the train tracks. I would instruct my cousins to lay pennies on the tracks and feel for the locomotive's thrum while I slipped off to read headstones and trace the edges of gravesites with my feet.

Everyone seemed so small outlined in rectangles on the ground, even the ones I knew had been taller in life. If I was truly alone, I would lie down on top of one of the outlined graves to measure myself against a person 50 or more years gone to see how small I would look one day.

It didn't feel sad to do that. It felt liberating. It was an idea that set me free, because it confirmed for me that I must milk the moments I am here. There was almost literally no time to waste on bullshit. 

I ended up wasting a ton of time on bullshit, anyway, because life is a messy process, but that old cemetery planted the seeds of what would later begin to heal me.

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Oakland Cemetery brought me back to a taste of that peacefulness, that centredness, with everyone gathered for over two hundred years together, confederate soldiers and famous authors and wealthy mausoleum tenants and babies with tombstones that melt a little more with each rain..

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I had a cousin who found me once lying before a headstone. I felt a horrible embarrassment rush over me, sweating itself out heavy in the heat. She started to cry, because she thought I would be cursed now, that I had trespassed in some unforgivable way. I was unable to convince her that there was no malice here, that the buried dead did not somehow carry death.

Author Margaret Mitchell of Gone With the Wind fame died at 48.

Author Margaret Mitchell of Gone With the Wind fame died at 48.

With rows and rows of lives I can only imagine, there is a library quiet in a graveyard, unread volumes. I would love it if we could open everyone like books when we have gone and read where we have been.