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Cemeteries and graveyards are quiet communities, which practice (as far as we know) the good neighbor policy.  The residents enjoy visitors, and are always willing to lend an ear.

Shadows cast from gnarly tree limbs, swirling leaves, and lichen covered stones can be irresistible for photographers. Some visitors enjoy the peaceful setting – walking pets around the perimeter, partaking a lunch on a bench or blanket, meditating, or engaging in a “romantic” rendezvous. Last year, “Laid to rest” took on a different meaning for a New Jersey woman, when a tombstone fell over, crushing her leg, during a sexual escapade.  (A resident’s judgment?)

Curiosity is often peaked as to the stories of the silent residents. Were their lives happy, or end tragically?

Find a Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/) sometimes offers clues, which relies on volunteers to post photographs of gravesite markers, and information about the deceased.

Association for Gravestone Studies (http://www.gravestonestudies.org/) offers suggestions on difficult-to-read stones, such as taking a digital photo, and inverting colors on your computer.

While some claim that grave markers should remain untouched, others insist that cleaning them shows respect. On a practical level, cleaning them makes it easier for those researching ancestral roots.

A simple cleaning can be accomplished without damaging the stone.  Spray with water, scrape most of the lichens off with something simple as a Popsicle stick, and rub flat surfaces with a natural bristle brush.  Spray chlorine for the remaining lichen, and brush a little more.  (Some household cleaners will leave a residue that can promote algae growth, so it’s best to avoid them.)

If you’re content to stay at home, and read a good graveyard mystery, check out Amanda Stevens’  “The Graveyard Queen” series.  It has a good balance of interesting information on gravesites, and spooky happenings.

Do you have any good cemetery stories?

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