Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #24 – Let the Dead Bury the Dead

June 14th, 2021

I thought this was an appropriate title for this Monday Morning Greeting about my Cemetery walks and thoughts. This was Jesus’s response to a disciple who wanted to leave his company to travel home to bury his father. Jesus’s insights about burial were not imbued with the usual sentiments of this world towards tombs, and neither are mine.

 

I have been walking every morning around the Hudson City Cemetery, which is across the street from our place. It is anything but a morbid stroll. These types of city cemeteries were intelligently designed to also serve as scenic parks. Here are my thoughts as I strolled its stunning eighty-eight acres.

 

 

THOMAS GAUL

1882-1931

Gone But Not Forgotten

Commentary: The Denial of Death is a 1973 book by cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker where he analyzes human civilization as an elaborate mechanism against the acknowledgment of mortality. Walking around, it became clear that the tombstone is indeed one of these mechanisms. Unfortunately, even if Thomas succeeds in his desire to live forever in the remembrance of him, he is not even the person being remembered. A strange thought came to my mind: Perhaps he is even buried here again in another grave from a future life.

 

 

JOHN BRANNON

July 19, 1912- February 6, 1985

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon the bank
Here will we sit and let the sounds
Creep into our ears, soft stillness and
Become the touches of sweet harmony
Such harmony is in immortal soul – Shakespeare

Commentary: As I walked this morning, I saw one tomb shaped as a soccer ball, another with a flag of the Buffalo Bills, and one old lady who passed away proudly sporting a laminated New York Yankees insignia on her tomb. How foolish to bring one’s transient identity to one’s tomb! It was therefore refreshing to see someone quote Shakespeare about the immortal soul. I pray I only bring the flag of my spiritual relationship with Krishna to my grave.

 

 

FREDERICK J. COOK

1875-1934

1904 Editor, Evening Register 1934

The rarest consecration of a labor of love 1934

Commentary: Apparently, Mr. Cook died on the job as his last year of service was the same year he died. It may not be the highest self-conception, but in this age of selfishness, I admire one who puts duty before self.

 

 

JOSEPH GAUL

1809 – 1879

FAITHFUL IN LIFE
TRIUMPHANT IN DEATH
THERE SHALL BE NO MORE DEATH
THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE

Commentary: Dying is no fun, but at least there is some solace for those who mark their grave with heartfelt expressions of eternal life, and for those who mourn for them. I was very inspired to see the many inscriptions of the devoted here. The engravings on their tombs reminded me of the profound relief I felt when first realizing I was eternal by reading the Bhagavad-gītā. It was as if a deep existential malaise of meaninglessness and mortality was immediately lifted from my head. I continued my walk savoring the more spiritual inscriptions:

 

“In God’s loving care”

 

“Faithful until death”

 

“Alive in Christ”

 

 

MARY D’AMATO

1917 to 1995

Beloved. Mom, Wife, Sister, Grandmother, Aunt, Cousin, Godmother and Friend

Commentary: Just like Mary, we are nothing but the various ways we manifest in response to the relationship we have with someone and the love they show us.  In the same way, the only method of realizing the Absolute Person, who is also ultimately a lover, friend, or child, is devotional service.

 

 

DAVID SMITH COWLES

Colonel 126 Regt
New York Vol. Infantry

Died in battle
At Port Hudson Louisiana
27 May 1863

Tell my mother I died
With my face to the enemy

Commentary: The cemetery goes back all the way to the Revolutionary War. This inscription was from the Civil War section. Real leaders are increasingly rare. I was impressed by the true warrior spirit of the Colonel. Who would not follow Colonel Cowles into battle? I was immediately reminded of the Bhagavad-gītā:

“O Pārtha, happy are the kṣatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets. (Bg. 2.32)

 

 

SUSAN M JACKOWSKI

1966 – 2009

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not here, I do not sleep
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I
am not here, I do not die

Commentary: I thought, perhaps Susan had read the Bhagavad-gītā:

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Bg. 2.13)

 

 

Ironically, after walking every day through the cemetery and philosophizing about it through somewhat of a transcendental lens, I did glean its earthly importance. I thought, if my father’s tomb was here, I would certainly go and offer my respects and remember his kindness and feel very good about that. People need to grieve and work their way through attachments and consequent loss. But ultimately, one day, we all need to embrace the highest vision of this reality:

 

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” (Bg. 2.11)

 

In other words, “Let the dead bury the dead.”

 

 

 

 

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