Can a Cemetery co-exist with the living?


There is much discussion as to how (or if) a cemetery can be used for other than burials. Some consider it sacred ground and say that nothing other than visitation is appropriate. Others take a wider view, saying that a cemetery is a place where history can be celebrated with cemetery tours and reenactments of historical figures.ev4


Graceland hosts many popular tours. And still others, including some Chicago area cemeteries, encourage the above to be shared actively by the living.  Lets look at the wide range of ideas:Many cemeteries restrict almost everything but visiting a grave. Signs are posted spelling out strict policies. The most common rules restrict most recreation and  planting. But some go way farther.  There are rules on some signs  as  “no overnight parking”, “Please conduct yourselves with dignity and respect at all times”, “no bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, rollerblades, snowmobiles, motorized ATV’s, or recreational activities. “no Frisbee or sports”, “do not climb or sit on gravestones”, “no peddling”,  ‘no loitering”, “no horses”, “no games”, “no alcohol,  illegal drugs, music, barbeques or sports” and my personal favorite “no Pokemon Go”,

Graves themselves are also heavily restricted: “no food, drink or toys to be left on graves” There are a variety of items variously prohibited such as shepherd’s hooks, standup decorations,  coping, curbing,  decorative rocks, fencing, hedging, grave mounds  borders or enclosures, glass,  Devotional lights,  photographs or porcelain material, trees or shrubs and on and on. And my two personal favorites are “ No decorations of any type are permitted in trees “ and “artificial wreaths simulating dark green or dark brown leaves with modest use of contrasting berries will be permitted if maintained in sightly condition”.

On the more liberal side some cemeteries allow or encourage more activities: There is an annual “Crypt” 5K run on the grounds of the north side’s historic Rosehill Cemetery. Run and walk at night on the sprawling 350-acre Victorian-era cemetery.

One group scheduled  a bicycle tour through Graceland Cemetery with special permission from the management. .  At least one other cemetery Bohemian National allows bikes. “Just be careful,” warned the general manager Elizabeth Raleigh. “We’ve got potholes.” They also have hosted a movie night.ev2 Not within Illinois, but the annual Shady Grove Cemetery Picnic features bingo, concessions, an auction, cake walk, and kids field games. “All proceeds go to the upkeep of the Shady Grove Cemetery.” Cedar Park Cemetery has in the past hosted Easter egg gathering. Some cemeteries promote Halloween activities. One cemetery, not in Illinois, offers a Halloween tour with costumed docent, music, and a fortune teller.

And finally there are the most liberal living uses of cemeteries:., Funeral homes and cemeteries are becoming wedding venues, using their chapels and grounds for saying ‘I do’. Couples search for a wedding location with solitude or sentiment. New York Marble Cemetery, is known for charging $2,500.  Ten feet below the lawn are passageways with 156 vaulted rooms for the deceased.

So what are your thoughts about sharing a cemetery with the living? Leave a comment on this blog. Thanks.








3 thoughts on “Can a Cemetery co-exist with the living?”

  1. The Elgin Historical Society does this at the Bluff City cemetery in Elgin. Elgin is part in Cook and part in Kane County but the cemetery’s are in Cook, County.


  2. Hmmm … I’m not sure about the bicycle tour at Graceland – they may run over my relatives there (whose headstones are gone). But I think historical activities and simple remembrances are fine. Some have gone a bit overboard where I live and friends of relatives of the deceased at one particular gravesite (not in Illinois) have left all manner of photos, balloons, flowers with vases, etc. I have to say it looks a bit circus-like. The deceased died over a year ago and I would say it’s time to clean things up.


    1. Your comments are nicely sensitive. There is a fine line to appropriate and over the top and I am sure all people have a different take on where the needle should be.And it makes me where exactly I might stand. hmmmmm. Thank you so much for weighing in.


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