Gravetender Book List

Cover of "A Graveyard Preservation Primer...

Summer’s almost here and that means it’s time to catch up on your reading. What’s on your Book List? I’m currently reading ‘A Graveyard Preservation Primer’  by Lynette Strangstad. Yes, I know…not exactly a can’t-put-it-down thriller novel but still interesting nonetheless. My local library had a copy (surprisingly it wasn’t checked out) and in its pages I’ve come across some great ideas. For those trying to figure out what to do with the kids this summer, check out these suggestions in Chapter 2:

“Graveyards as an Educational Tool”

“Experience has shown that one of the best ways to protect graveyards is to educate the public that frequents them as to their importance and their charm. This applies to the general public, but paticularly to schoolchildren, since introducing a new generation to the significance of gravestones goes far toward having a concerned adult populace in later years.

Field trips make a graveyard “come alive” for children in the best sense of the phrase. Simply including early graveyards among the trips to museums and other cultural resources reinforces the fact that graveyards are among these treasures and are to be treated as the outdoor museums they are. Such trips are also effective in dispelling children’s occasional fear of graveyards, which is often brought on by movies and shared stories.

Varying age groups will require different activities, of course. The few suggestions that follow are intended only to indicate the variety of activities and the various age groups that can be involved.

A scavenger hunt to see who can find, for example, the most stones with cherubs on them

An English lesson in which students seek out the nonstandard spellings of words common prior to about 1790, as well as archaic words or phrases.

A history lesson in which students identify particular historical facts or personages on the stones themselves.

An art lesson where students identify favorite stones; photograph stones; create original artwork using some of the same motifs.

A sociology lesson in which students gather date for a particular decade, using the graveyard as a source.

A geology lesson in which students identify the variety of stones represented.”

These all sound like fun ideas. I’ll be trying them out with Gravetender Toddler when he’s older!

What are you reading this summer?



Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

English: A grave in Eloise Woods Community Nat...

What happens when you die? (Hint – the answer is simple and non-religious). When you die, your body decomposes, your flesh wastes away and eventually only your bones and teeth remain but in time, these too crumble into dust.

Sorry! Didn’t mean to get all gory on you but that’s what happens. So why bother with caskets, coffins and pine boxes? Well, some people don’t:

You’ve heard of greening your life. But an increasing number of people are now planning to be eco-conscious even in death. Called natural burial, the eco-friendly final resting place is a plot of land in a field, and little else. No chemical embalming process, no lacquered casket, and in some cases, not even a tombstone.

“The underlying principal is to allow the human remains to return to the earth as naturally as possible,” said Rick Cowan, spokesperson with Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries.

On Monday, the company’s Brampton cemetery, Meadowvale, opens the GTA’s first natural burial site. While the practice has become widespread in Europe — the first site opened in the UK 20 years ago — it’s only beginning to catch on in North America. Meadowvale’s half-acre site is believed to be the third official natural burial place in Canada.

Not all sites agree on what constitutes a natural burial. It’s up to each cemetery to make decisions about, for instance, what types of materials can be used to contain the body, said Cowan. Mount Pleasant Group took two years to draft its rules. Among them: a casket can be used, provided it’s made of biodegradable materials and not treated with varnish. Embalming can take place, so long as it’s not done with formaldehyde or other, non-biodegradable chemicals.

While cremation is frowned upon by some environmental groups — the process uses about 27 litres of natural gas per body, according to the Natural Burial Association — it will be allowed at Meadowvale, though the container is required to be biodegradable. What won’t be permitted are tombstones. The cemetery wants the plot to remain “pristine,” Cowan said, and other than narrow pathways down to grave locations, the natural grass and indigenous flowers they have planted will not be cut. Graves will be identified only with a small numbered marker in the grass. In place of tombstones, the cemetery has installed four granite obelisks where names can be inscribed.

It’s not known what type of demand there will be for the burial, Cowan said. Given its stripped down nature, you might assume the eco-friendly option is also the cheaper one, but that’s not the case. The price of natural and traditional interments is comparable, Cowan said, because the same work has to be done to prepare the plot.

“In some sense this is sticking our toe in the water to see whether or not there’s a segment of the population that truly would like to have this type of opportunity,” he said. If the demand turns out to be there, Mount Pleasant Group will dedicate more natural burial space at its other cemeteries, Cowan said.

Would you be interested in a natural burial?

Cemetery Etiquette


Hello, my name is gravetender and I’m a cemetery-holic. And I’m not the only one (phew!).  There are hundreds (thousands? hundreds of thousands?) people just like me all over the world who enjoy visiting cemeteries. And when we visit cemeteries we follow the rules of cemetery etiquette.

‘Cemetery Etiquette: How to Act When Graveyard Hopping’ is an article penned in the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal. And just what exactly is a Graveyard Rabbit, you ask? Well, a Graveyard Rabbit is a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits and they are dedicated to the “academic promotion of the historical importance of cemeteries, grave markers, and the family history to be learned from a study of burial customs, burying grounds, and tombstones; and the social promotion of the study of cemeteries, the preservation of cemeteries, and the transcription of genealogical/historical information written in cemeteries.”

So back to the article (which you can read in full here) and the generally accepted rules of cemetery etiquette, which are:

  • Appreciate memorials as they are. Do not add to, take away from, or modify a memorial in any way.
  • Do not intrude on funeral or memorial services.
  • Do not bring alcohol, firearms, or entertainment items into cemeteries.
  • Keep pets leashed and under control. Clean up after them. [If the cemetery has an office, first check to make sure pets are welcome.]
  • Do not litter (this includes cigarette butts), and do not interfere with plants and wildlife.
  • Keep vehicles on designated roadways or in parking areas. Idling vehicle engines can be harmful to landscaping and historical structures.

And here are some more:

  • Move nothing except obvious trash.
  • No loud music. If in your vehicle, the music should not be heard by anyone outside of it.
  • Keep cell phone conversations quiet.
  • Do not do rubbings without permission. Each cemetery has a different stance on this. Some will allow it, some will not. Some will require permission from the lot owner. Always ask.
  • Drive through cemeteries at a slow speed.
  • If asked to put away your camera, do so. Some cemeteries are considered private property. Some consider each lot to be a private property.
  • Never trespass. If a cemetery is located on private property, get permission from the land owner before visiting.
  • Keep conversations with companions at a respectable volume. I don’t think a whisper is required, but shouting is obviously disrespectful and unnecessary.
  • Leave no evidence of your visit.
  • Report fresh vandalism incidents immediately.
  • Cemeteries are not to be used as a camping ground or “lovers’ lane.”
  • Picnics are usually acceptable, but be sure to leave the area cleaner than when you arrived. (I imagine this to be true in the many park-like cemeteries, but I would not assume this to be true at every cemetery.)
  • Do not pick flowers. Not even the ones that are part of the general cemetery landscape. This is against the law in some places.

These are good rules to follow. Do you have good cemetery etiquette?