This spring marks my third year of working in the cemetery with Dr. McGuire and this project. I have had the exciting opportunity to get to conduct independent field work, building on the work that I started in 2015 when I participated in the class.
Through out this project, one of the things I feel that I have learnt most to appreciate is the sense of community that surrounds the synagogue, the cemetery and the people. When I started working on this project there was a sense of feeling of being an outsider coming into their space, and after three years, I feel very much that we are no longer sitting on the outside, encroaching on people’s space, but as if we are a part of this community in our own way.
I went to the cemetery this morning to do some photography and I experienced the cemetery in a very different way than I have thus far. Today marks 8 years since the death of a close family member of mine, and rather than having a productive morning conducting research, I found myself appreciating the cemetery from a different mindset.
The first thing I noticed this morning was how calm I felt walking through the gates. The sun was shining, birds were chirping and somewhere down the road, someone was mowing their lawn. The feeling of peace was overwhelming in its own way. I felt welcome and at home there, even though I wasn’t there to visit any particular grave.
I find that there is something calming and reassuring walking quietly through the cemetery. I am sad today, but I also feel very lucky to live in a part of the world where I am welcome to quietly reflect and remember my brother and my grandfather in a place where what my personal beliefs don’t matter. Being in the cemetery to me means respecting everyone’s right to grieve and remember their loved ones however they want. It means sharing a common need to remember and feel a connection to those we love and have loved. It means that I can take part in remembering all the individuals who have been laid to rest in this cemetery while remembering my own loved ones, buried far away from where I can visit them regularly.