Embracing the Serenity: Exploring the Beauty and Significance of Cemeteries

Cemeteries offer tranquility and beauty. They are where we go to honor loved ones and to reflect on the lives they lived. Yet somehow, cemeteries have earned a reputation as spooky or scary. Not true! Find out how pop culture influenced our view of these sacred spaces and explore a few notable cemeteries. 

Walking among the headstones in a cemetery makes it hard not to feel moved by the experience. It’s a unique space that invites contemplation and respect. After all, cemeteries are the final resting places for many of our loved ones, where we say our last goodbyes, lay flowers, and speak words of comfort that we hope are heard beyond this physical world.

How Cemeteries Can Ease Grief

Funerals are an essential ritual that bereavement counselors say is an important step in acceptance. Visiting a loved one’s resting place is also healing. Studies have shown that spending time at a loved one’s resting place can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in grieving individuals. It can also provide a sense of comfort and closure and a space to meditate, pray, or simply be alone. 

Whether a traditional burial site with a marker, columbarium niche, or another permanent memorial, visiting a loved one’s resting place helps us keep their memory alive. Cemeteries offer a chance to gather on special days or holidays and to maintain a continuing bond with others who share our grief.  

Gothic Horror Novels Depicted Cemeteries in an Unfavorable Light

Naturally, visiting a loved one’s resting place can make us feel sad or contemplative. But it wasn’t until the 18th century that some people began associating cemeteries with negative or frightening connotations when gothic horror novels became popular.

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” published in 1818, was among the first novels to establish the recognizable characteristics of the gothic horror genre, which include:

  • An atmosphere of dread, preferably Isolated castles, decrepit mansions, and dark graveyards 
  • Mysterious elements, including monsters, vampires, ghosts, and curses 
  • Psychological tension aimed at our anxiety, fear, and dread of the unknown, including death and the afterlife 

With their large stone monuments and imposing statutes, cemeteries were the perfect gothic backdrop for “Dracula,” “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” and modern horror stories like “Pet Cemetery” and “The Interview with the Vampire.” 

In Reality, Cemeteries Are Beautiful, Peaceful Sanctuaries

Far from being eerie, cemeteries are serene sanctuaries where we find solace and contemplation. They provide a haven for individuals seeking a peaceful retreat, a place to reminisce and connect with their inner selves. Beyond paying our respects to departed loved ones, cemeteries can be meaningful places to visit for several reasons.

Historical Significance 

Many cemeteries are home to notable historical figures, such as politicians, artists, and pioneers. Visiting these graves can be a unique way to learn more about our past and the individuals who shaped it.

Cultural Insight

Cemeteries can also showcase a region’s cultural and religious diversity. From Jewish cemeteries with yahrzeit candles to Dia de los Muertos celebrations, these cultural differences can offer insights and a better understanding of different ways of honoring and remembering those who have passed.

Natural Beauty

Cemeteries often feature beautiful, serene landscapes that provide a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Walking paths, gardens, and fountains allow visitors to enjoy the natural world while paying respects to departed loved ones.

Reflection and Contemplation 

Cemeteries offer visitors a space for quiet reflection and contemplation. Amid the stress of daily life, they can provide a respite for contemplation, meditation, and peaceful contemplation.

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Notable ShareLife Cemeteries 

ShareLife has many cemeteries, cremation gardens, and memorial parks in our collection, including these notable places: 

Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial and Mausoleum

Portland, Oregon 

Established as the Portland Crematorium on April 24, 1901, Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial and Mausoleum showcases stunning Spanish Mission Revival architecture with whitewashed stucco walls, tile roofs, and mosaic tile doors. 

Over the decades, Wilhelm’s evolved into a full-fledged mausoleum with eight stories and five miles of vault-lined hallways and staircases. The Mausoleum houses the famous Rae Room, the resting place for George Rae, a prominent lumber mill owner, and his wife, Elizabeth Rae. In a room adorned with exquisite granite, marble, and stained glass, the couple are interred within Italian hand-carved marble sarcophagi containing solid bronze coffins. The Rae Room is only open to the public once a year on Memorial Day. 

Famous Burials at Wilhelm’s Portland Mausoleum: 

Major League Baseball players

  • Charlie Babb
  • Charlie High
  • Syl Johnson
  • Fielder Jones
  • Charlie Swindells
  • Wayne Twitchell

Actors and artists

  • Jack Beutel
  • Mayo Methot (also first wife to actor Humphrey Bogart)
  • John Yeon, architect

Politicians and elected officials

  • Homer Daniel Angell, U.S. congressman
  • William Alexander Ekwall, U.S. congressman
  • William Russell Ellis, educator and politician
  • Robert Denison Holmes, 28th Governor of Oregon
  • Rufus Mallory, politician and lawyer

Sunnyside Cemetery 

St. Petersburg, Florida 

The third-oldest cemetery in St. Petersburg, Sunnyside Cemetery features lushly landscaped gardens, towering oaks draped in Spanish moss, and serene wooded glens. Established in 1895, Sunnyside Cemetery was first known as the Ellis Graveyard. The cemetery was reserved only for family members of founder Nathaniel Ellis. In 1904, the cemetery’s new owner formed the Sunnyside Cemetery Association. By the following year, Sunnyside Cemetery opened to the public.

The cemetery is steeped in local history as the preferred resting place for generations of families. The Pinellas Genealogy Society maintains a list of gravesites, including the resting site of Walter John Hoxie, who wrote the original 1913 edition of the Girl Scouts Handbook.

Chico Cemetery

Chico, California

The first burial at Chico Cemetery was in 1862. General John Bidwell, buried at Chico with his wife, Annie E.K. Bidwell, donated the 58 acres of beautiful lawns and elegant trees. The cemetery’s beautiful stonework and statues are featured in the book Stories in Stone: Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. General Bidwell was a pioneer, soldier, politician, prohibitionist, and philanthropist. A significant milestone in Bidwell’s life was leading the Bartleson-Bidwell Party, one of the first emigrant parties that traversed the rugged California Trail. This courageous journey marked the beginnings of Chico, the city that owes its founding to Bidwell. 

Greenlawn Memorial Park & Cemetery 

Columbia, South Carolina

Established in 1937, Greenlawn Memorial Park is one of Columbia’s most historic and beautiful cemeteries. Its natural beauty is the resting place for notable figures like Matthew J. Perry, Jr., the state’s first African-American U.S. District Judge. Born in Columbia, Perry helped gain the legal release of over 7,000 people arrested for participating in Civil Rights demonstrations. He was posthumously inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. 

Another South Carolina native, Lillian “Fabulous Moolah” Ellison, is buried at Greenlawn. A wrestling icon and the first female to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Moolah broke gender barriers in the male-dominated world of professional wrestling. Fans loved her flamboyant personality and fearless in-ring tactics, which earned her numerous titles during her long career.