When my brother-in-law died unexpectedly some years ago, I was assigned the task of choosing a gravesite in California, to which he would be brought home for burial. As I walked the grounds of Ascension Cemetery in Lake Forest, I was fairly certain I had seen a headstone with a picture of Wilma Flintstone. Was it? I asked, fearing a stress-induced hallucination. “Oh, yes!” came the reply. “That is the grave of Jean Vander Pyl, who was the voice of Wilma Flintstone. And William Hanna” — as in animation greats Hanna-Barbera — “is buried here too.”It fell to me to call my sister and ask, “Would you mind very much if your husband is buried near Wilma Flintstone?” When we visit his grave, it is hard not to shout, “Yabba dabba doo.”The experience broke the spell that cemeteries once held over me and, indeed, hold over many of us. No matter our beliefs, the sadness in visiting these places — Nicole Brown Simpson is buried in Ascension — never subsides, but the fear can, replaced by an appreciation for life and history. If death is the final reminder that we are imperfect creatures, the impeccably manicured grounds try to balance the scales.
Below, 10 travel writers take you to burial grounds across the United States and outside the country. They invite you to remember military veterans, who inspired the Memorial Day holiday, along with actors, comedic and serious; a president’s wife, both beloved and reviled; a mysterious mother and more.
Pay your respects or pay a visit; you’ll get your reward, perhaps in heaven but definitely in the here and now.