Thursday, May 14, 2009

Graveyard Offerings

As a follow-up to "Graveyard Etiquette," EllaEnchanted gave me a great inspiration--offerings on graves. I remember back East, the cemeteries were pretty standard and the offerings just flowers mostly. Out here in the West, there is a completely different culture influenced by a few things; Hispanic/Catholic customs and the very dreary elements of western cemeteries that are often in the desert and without grass/trees/shade, that makes folks just want to spruce things up.

The first photo depicts a grave at the Yuma Cemetery. This is in the Hispanic section of the graveyard where the graves are so elaborate that people appear to try to outbeat the neighbors. People leave slices of cakes for children on their birthdays, toys, more flowers than can be imagined, candles, lots of images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, cherubs and angels, garlands of flowers, rosary beads, seashells, apache tears, goblets, even lawn chairs for visiting. Any interests the beloved losed one had will be portrayed through figurines and toys. One Air Force pilot had a model plane on his grave. Inside the box in the photo above, there were dolphins, lighthouses, photos, candles, figurines.

The other photo shows a grave in Sedona, Arizona that was for a young woman. On her 21st birthday, the family left her a card and an open bottle of champagne and a glass. There were angels set all around her and cherubs to protect her. You can just imagine the family sitting around having some of the champagne and leaving her a glass. It's not only poignant, but unbelievably anguishing.

I've seen people put solar lights around a grave, making it glow eerily blue at night. I've seen more windchimes and whirlygigs than can be imagined. One time, I found someone had laid down a folded blanket beside the grave and a pillow beside the head of the grave and a stuffed animal. I realized that this parent might have slept beside their "sleeping" child with the beloved stuffed animal. It was the most beautiful and heartbreaking thing imagineable.

Makes you wonder what they'd leave on your grave.

Personally, I'll take the champagne, but pour it directly over the grave and stand back because when I drink champagne, I always want to dance.


  1. I used to participate in cemetery clean-ups when I was in 4-H, trimming shrubs, cleaning stones. We saw some amazingly poignant and touching offerings left on graves: once a rusted locket, an antique book of Shakespeare's sonnets, a miniature tricycle, a beaded baby bracelet, a photograph of newlyweds on a parent's grave. One grave, however, stands out in my mind for the rather blush-inducing offering left by a man's wife. I guess it was close to their wedding anniversary, but on the second morning of a two-day cleanup we discovered a pair of quite lovely silky pink panties and a love note with a big smack of red lipstick on the envelope. We quietly chuckled and gave the man's headstone an affectionate pat when we left at the end of the day.

  2. I bet he was a happy stiff. Okay, I had to say it!

    Yeah, I make it a practice to clean up at the cemeteries. We had one event here that was a workshop at an abandoned cemetery. I brought tons of trash bags and everyone brought gloves and we picked up probably 20 lawn-sized bags of trash for pickup. It was a real party place. There was even a mattress we dragged to the curb for pickup. I suppose folks figure no one's going to a cemetery at night, so they have the place as a party ground.

  3. Autumn i remembered about a dollhouse grave i had read about years ago so i went and found it, along with other dollhouse graves and unusual headstones and put them on the Eccentric site for you.:) These parents truly loved their little girls.

  4. Beautiful article Autumnforest-the part about the parent sleeping next to their dead child made my eyes water!! I agree about what I have seen which is not much but some in regards to Hispanic graves-they are much more colorful and sometimes it does seem like there is competition between the neighbors!! best to you as always!!

  5. I have seen, while visiting my father's grave at Christmas time, an unbelievable about of decorations. It looks so beautiful with many of the graves done up to the nines. I have seen hispanic families having picnics near the graves of their loved ones during the holidays. Must be their tradition. I personally like to give my father's, mother-in-law's and sister-in-law's graves some flowers and a small stuffed animal or a small statue.

  6. One more note, it is very sad to see graves with nothing on them. My daughter and I may take a flower or two from our loved ones bouquets and put a flower on those graves nearby.

  7. I agree about the graves. I hate to see ones that are so old that people they knew when they were alive are probably gone. Sometimes, I just read their headstones outloud. I don't know why, but for a few seconds, they're being remembered and talked about. I think that's cool. At my brother's grave, I made him a cross with a decoupage of everything he most loved in the world all over it. It was neat to pound it into the ground and know that he had all that he loved with him.