Tag Archive for advice

Cemetery Etiquette. Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints.

Gracie in Bonaventure Cemetery
“I want to go to the cemetery for a ghost hunt!” If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it a hundred times since I have begun hosting a ghostly tour of Denton’s square. I cringe every time I hear someone say it, and it’s all I can do to keep from getting on a soapbox to lecture about the etiquette of visiting cemeteries. There are three things I want to tell people who visit a graveyard to hunt ghosts or even just to wander around:

  1. Respect.
  2. Respect.
  3. RESPECT!

Don’t get me wrong … I’ve “haunted” my share of graveyards (in the daytime). I enjoy photographing the sculptures and symbols on our monuments to the dead, and I love pondering the mystery of the lives of the people whose names are on the tombstones. There is a word for people like me. I am a “taphophile.” Simply put, it means that I love cemeteries and graveyards.

Bonaventure cemetery

I confess that I have never hunted ghosts in a cemetery, because quite frankly I think a cemetery ghost might be boring. Would you come back to haunt your mouldering body? Not me! I’m going to come back to some place I loved in life when I am a ghost (and I fully expect to be one). I’m going to jump out of walls and scare the willies out of people! But, that’s just me.

As much as I love wandering in graveyards, there are rules of etiquette that apply. If you are thinking of a visit to a cemetery, I hope you will keep these in mind. If you have teenagers share these rules with them as Halloween approaches, even though you know that Mama’s baby would never get into any mischief at Halloween.

CEMETERY ETIQUETTE FOR TAPHOPHILES

  1. Have respect for the dead. A cemetery is not a playground for ghost hunters and taphophiles. It is a memorial to honor those who have gone before us. Treat it as such (besides, if it is haunted, and you are disrespectful, a ghost might trip you and twist your ankle!).
  2. Have respect for the living who are left behind. If you see a family mourning at a grave, or see a funeral procession, put away your cameras. Pack up your EMF and EVP detectors. Better yet, leave the cemetery and come back another day. Would you want some crazy person looking for your Grandpa’s ghost? No you wouldn’t … you would want to think he is resting in peace.
  3. A cemetery is not a place for shouting and loud music. It’s also not a place for you to make all your cemetery jokes! I’m not telling you that you have to be “grave,” but it isn’t really appropriate to get silly at the cemetery.
  4. Do NOT go to a cemetery at night without permission from the cemetery association! Sure, I know it would be spine-tingling to hunt ghosts at night, but most cemeteries in Texas are open from dawn to dusk. If you are in that cemetery at night without permission you are trespassing and could get your behind arrested and possibly have to pay a big fine! It’s not worth it.
  5. Keep small children with you, and keep them under control. If you take your dog for a walk in the cemetery, keep it on a leash and for Heaven’s sake clean up after it.
  6. Park in designated areas —NOT on the grass. There could be an unmarked grave there.
  7. Johnny Mercers grave

  8. Don’t touch the sculptures on the graves. Don’t lean on a monument or sit on one or pose for pictures draped over a tombstone. Some of those are hundreds of years old and they have been exposed to the elements — you could damage them. And, yes I know that bench looks inviting, but it is for the mourners. Don’t sit on it. If you do accidentally damage anything, report it to the cemetery association and be ready to pay for repairs! It’s the right thing to do.
  9. NEVER take anything from a cemetery … except any trash that you might generate (including cigarette butts). Don’t take coins or toys or flowers or dirt or guitar picks or any other offerings that were left for the dead. It’s bad juju. Do I have to tell you not to steal a headstone? I know someone who did that as a teenager who claimed to have some very serious and frightening haunting at his house until he took it back where it belonged.
  10. NEVER bring alcohol or firearms into a cemetery!
  11. Take only photographs and leave only footprints.

Bonaventure Cemetery gravestones

Cemeteries can be delightful places for a walk, can yield some wonderful photos, could send you on a genealogical quest, and might net an encounter with a spirit. Just remember to use your common sense and your “company manners.”

Illumination

emergency candles

My husband smiles indulgently when we go to garage sales, because I always make a beeline for the candles. Yes, I buy candles that have been burned, and I find ones that haven’t been used at all. If I can get them cheaply, I grab ’em by the armload. I don’t like to pay full price for candles, because those darned things are expensive! You might wonder why I keep buying them, since I have a cabinet full of candles already. It’s true that I hoard things like that, however I do burn them regularly. Besides, you never know when you might need candles … like tonight when the power went out during a summer storm.

“When Thomas Edison worked late into the night on the electric light, he had to do it by gas lamp or candle. I’m sure it made the work seem that much more urgent.” ~~ George Carlin

By a strange serendipity, I had just organized my “candle cabinet” this morning. I considered tossing some of them that were in bad shape, but decided to wait. Some of them are butt ugly, but I decided that I could always grate the wax to make handy-dandy fire starters for winter if I chose not to burn the candles. When the lights went out, I was glad those wonky candles weren’t in the trash. Although we were only without electricity for about an hour, it could have been much longer. It was nice to be able to put those ugly candles to good use.

I’m just lucky that I know where they are. You might not have as many candles as I do, but can you put your hands on them if you should need them? Or, are they buried in the junk drawer? When I only had a few of them, that’s where mine wound up. As I dealt with our unexpected power outage, I realized there are several things that it might be handy to have in reach when the world goes dark during a summer storm. It’s pretty awful to have to fumble through the junk drawers to find a source of light, so it pays to get organized. Here is what I want handy:

  • Those candles, of course. I have curious cats, so I don’t like tapers, because they are easily tipped over (if you have small children you might want to consider that as well). I prefer votive candles and pillars. Safety is the first issue. When you put them out, be sure they aren’t near drapes or tablecloths that might catch a spark.
  • A lighter or matches. Those candles won’t do much good if you can’t make them burn.
  • Flashlights. We have several different sizes, and I keep them tucked in different parts of the house. I regularly use the tiny “book lights” you can get for reading in bed. No, I don’t read in bed, because I fall asleep too quickly. However, I get up before my husband and use those to navigate the dark bedroom without waking him. They are perfect for power outage emergencies, too.
  • A battery operated fan or two (or three). Yes, you DO need that, because without air-conditioning it’s going to get hot! At least, it will in Texas. On-line you can find O2 Cool Fans that aren’t very expensive. My buddy Ann gave me one, and I use it daily.
  • Batteries. Regularly make sure that you have working batteries in your flashlights and fans, but keep spare batteries in a place that you can find them.
  • A fully charged cell phone! I have a habit of forgetting to charge mine. If the power is out for a very long time, I know I would be sorry! I can use that phone to call someone in an emergency, as a flashlight, and to update my Facebook status so everyone can share my misery.

That should just about do it …

Oh wait … I just thought of something else you should have on hand in case the power is out: playing cards and board games! Remember those? Do you still even have any of those? I know it’s difficult to imagine life without being able to connect with “friends” on Facebook, but just think about it. You can sit in the glowing light of the candles with your family gathered around. You can play games and talk to people you know! What an illuminating idea.

Perhaps we should turn out the lights intentionally and burn candles more often!

Losers Weepers

Except that they deal with larger issues, this belongs on an episode of that ABC News television show called “What Would You Do?” Someone is weeping and wailing right now, but it isn’t me. In that old rhyme (“Finders keepers, losers weepers”) I’m the “finder.” I also feel faced with a tiny moral dilemma. Your input is welcome as I try to solve it.

I stepped out of my car at the Post Office and reached for the packages I intended to mail. As I bent to get them from the floor board of the car, I noticed a scrap of paper on the ground. It was the backing paper for a book of stamps. Someone had been to lazy to walk to the trash can.

I deplore littering, and that trash was in easy reach. I snatched it to toss in the waste can. When I picked it up and turned it over, this sight greeted me:

expensive postage stamps

Two unused stamps, with a lovely picture on them of the Bixby Creek Bridge (wherever that is) were now in my possession. I stared incredulously at the denomination of the stamp. EACH stamp was worth $18.30!”

“My gosh!” I shouted to no one in particular. Actually, that’s not what I shouted, but my exclamation is unprintable, and I want y’all to think I’m a lady. “Someone dropped $36.60!”

I looked around the parking lot for a likely owner. No cars were parked anywhere near, and the drivers of the cars that were in the lot would not have walked near this spot on their way inside.

Clutching my new-found treasure, I sauntered into the post office. As I walked to the counter, I searched the faces of the folks inside to see if anyone looked distressed. I figured that I would be a screaming meemie if I had lost something that valuable. No one fit the description.

At the counter, I could have handed over the stamps and told the clerk, “I found these in the parking lot.” I didn’t for several reasons:

  • I figured that whoever lost those stamps would not be back to the post office to inquire. They would figure that the stamps were long gone.
  • The stamps might just get sold again by the post office.
  • Or, there might be an unscrupulous postal employee, who took those found stamps for personal use. I said, “might.”

At any rate, I have these stamps, and I’m wondering what to do. I’m commiserating with the person who lost them. What if it was a Momma sending gifts to her child in the military? What if it was someone on a fixed income? There are a dozen “what ifs” but I might not ever know.

Here are the choices that I think I have. You might have better ideas, and I’d love to hear them:

  • If I could trade them for a smaller denomination (which has never worked in the past), I’d use them for Share A Square 2010 in a heartbeat and consider them a gift from the Universe. Someone’s loss would be a gain for a program helping kids with cancer.
  • I could just hold on to them in case I need them at Christmas.
  • If the guilt becomes too much, I could donate them to a cause that might actually use them (such as the Handmade Afghan Project, which sends afghans to wounded military).
  • Or I could place an ad in the newspaper:
    FOUND:
    Stamps at the post office. Name the denomination, show a receipt, and prove you didn’t read my blog post and I will return. Also tell me where the heck you were sending something that cost $18.30 TO MAIL!!

Well, maybe I’d leave that last part off of the ad, since it’s a dead giveaway.

What would YOU do?”

I’ll wait to hear from you while I sit here feeling guilty. I just hope that the person who lost them learns a lesson. If you spend that much on stamps … put them in your wallet when you leave the post office!