Monday, 2 November 2009

Toussaint and a visit to the cemetry

Toussaint, All Saints Day falls on November 1 the day after Halloween, I'm surprised the French don't have a cake or pastry for Toussaint, as they do for many other saints' days, the Mexicans make pastries and skulls out of sugar.  The next day, November 2, is known as day of the dead, a time to remember those no longer with us. I think it is a wonderful idea to have a special day for the dead.

The Montparnasse cemetery near me is awash with chrysanthemums, the flower preferred by the French for cemeteries. They are colourful and durable, plus they add colour as the leaves fall

Every cemetery in Paris has celebrities and among those resting in Montparnasse are; the novelist Guy Maupassant, the poet Charles Baudelaire, the artists Man  Ray and Brancusi, and the writers Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre with Simone de Beauvoir. The pop icon Serge Gainsborough is  here too, but the grave I always visit is that of the actor Philippe Noiret, you'll remember him as the projectionist in Cinema Paradiso.

As I ambled through the cemetery today, I saw old and young paying their respects to the dead. In one of the narrow alleys that separate the tombs I happened across a man seated on a grave quietly weeping, his loss still raw.
We live in a culture that denies death, the only certainty of life. Visiting a cemetery can be a positive affirmation of life and an important reminder not to a waste a minute of it.

1 comment:

Robyn said...

I fully agree with the idea of a day for the Dead. As a wise family sage would have commented "Only two things are certain - Death and taxes!". As we delve into updating the family tree, I often would where we would be without cemeteries and the stories they hold. Yes they are a place of sadness but of memories too and memories do not have to be sad. Australia would have to choose another time of year though - certainly not the first Tuesday in November!!

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