I see dead people.
More accurately, today we visited the resting places of a number of famous people in the largest greenspace in the city.
Before we left the flat, we enjoyed an apricot cake that Stephan made for breakfast. Last night they recommended some options for our last day in Paris. We decided to explore the Cimitèrie du Père-Lachaise.
When we arrived at the cemetery the multitude of above-ground vaults reminded me of the cemeteries outside of New Orleans with the exception of all the trees and hills here. Famous artists, authors, composers, politicians and others are found here. There are memorials to those lost in the Holocaust. There are tributes to resistance fighters. And there are whimsical and unusual sculptures throughout.
The chapels and monuments are quite elaborate. I'm reminded of the ways that some societies play tribute to the dead. I have always found a walk in the cemetery to be calming, and I admire the inscriptions and tributes.
There were some gravesites that I wanted to visit. The first site was the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. While I have not read any of his works in depth, I have appreciated his quick-witted tongue and I'm drawn to his tortured story for being a man who loved other men. Wilde was imprisoned for two years in England for homosexual acts, and when he was released, he moved to France and never returned. The time in prison left him in poor health, and he died at the age of 46. The inscription on his memorial is from one his last poems:
"And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn"
We also visited the gravesite of Jim Morrison. Like too many musicians of his era (Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix), he died very young. I was 9 years old when his song "Light My Fire" was released. I remember thinking the song was dumb at the time. I rediscovered Jim Morrison when I was in grad school. I liked his haunting baritone voice and I was intrigued by many of the lyrics and mood changes.
A celebrity buried here that I knew less about was Colette, who was an actor and writer. I was reminded when we went to Moulin Rouge that she almost caused the venue to be shut down when she gave a long kiss onstage to another woman in 1907. She is known for her books, most notably a novella that was adapted for the movie Gigi.
We also witnessed Anerican novelist Gertrude Stein's grave who is buried next to her long-time partner Alice B Toklas. I admire them as those who came before us who demonstrated living authentic lives. "A rose is a rose is a rose "
Rather than continuing with a name-dropping list of famous dead people I have walked by, I want to offer this reflection:
I think most of us want to be remembered.
Did we love?
Were we loved?
Did we make any contribution that mattered without needing to be famous?
Will people still talk about us when we're gone?
I cited a few of the individuals surrounded by a cast of deceases celebrities more to illustrate that everyone has a story. If we pay attention, we can learn their stories while they are living. We can let them know that they matter and not wait to build a moss-gathering monument after they're gone.
One of the best parts of this trip is taking time to learn the stories of others we have met in our lodging or other chance meetings. It's a great lesson to bring home, and it was a gift that this cemetery walk brought to me today.
Au revoir and merci, Paris. It was fun. And we're back up to Amsterdam for a few days. We're wishing everyone a good night from our floating home.Read more
I see dead people.