I love cemeteries in much the same way I love movie credits. There are names, which most of the time have no context or meaning, and there are vague titles or descriptions, which mean something but never tell the whole story. Loving father, beloved daughter, dear departed brother, foley artist, rigging gaffer, construction grip. Specifically, the names and descriptions don’t typically touch me, but the idea that here there are real people who, in some way, however small or dramatic, created or altered or shaped something real to me now–that idea weighs on me in a way that is strangely important.
My favorite cemetery in Chicago is Graceland. Besides being astonishingly beautiful, it’s enormous. It’s easy to get lost in there, and lose a couple hours. There are the directors and stars and well-known supporting players–Marshall Field, Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Mies van der Rohe, Ruth Page, Allan Pinkerton, David Adler. But there are also hundreds of people who left no quantifiable or remembered mark on the world, but who had a story once, and a part to play, whose very existence added in some way to the story in which I find myself. I try to listen for their stories, and it quiets the storms in my head.