When you get out of the car at Taft Memorial Cemetery here is what you’re greeted with- a life-sized statue of The Lord standing next to a large sign that lists all of the things that you can’t do there. Here is what you CAN do…you can bury somebody. But, you can’t bury them and then plant a tree, park a bench, bring a chair, use mulch around the grave…and rocks are also forbidden. Did I mention no pavers? Basically you can just put them in the ground and then sit on the ground with them when you come back to visit. The sign does not mention rules prohibiting any kind of vandalism, but it’s effective anyway because I’m thinking that people are probably scared to come in if they’re faced with a giant list of rules before they even get all the way in the gate. Rules, plus Jesus. I’d think twice.
I personally like a more relaxed cemetery environment. In Orlando Lake Hill Cemetery comes to mind. Out of state, Holt Cemetery in New Orleans, where people do tend to get creative because they’re unable to afford more expensive monuments. I like it when people are allowed to get artistic with their tributes and I think that it assists in the grieving process when you are able to create something for that person. Formal cemeteries are pretty, sure, but I like knowing I can sit down with grandpa and really talk, have a glass of iced tea, and plant a tree or even a damned tomato plant if I feel like it. I can make a marker that suits grandpa’s personality. I bought the plot, I hold the deed, and that’s my grandpa.
Taft is an active cemetery with a lot of room to grow, and it is very well tended and visited. There are a lot of graves here with entire gardens of fake flowers surrounding them, and a lot of personal mementos left on the graves. If you can get past the front gate the cemetery starts to have a friendly feel to it. Most of the ones I visit have handmade stones as older tributes, but in this space, some of the newer burials had hand made stones, and I thought that was wonderful, even if it was strictly forbidden by The Rules. There was also an unusual section to the left of flat handmade stones, all with a cross motif on them, that ran in a long line through the cemetery. They were quite beautiful. If you walk straight back to the fence there is a section of thick, older handmade stones that cluster together between two small trees. One of the trees has an active swarm of bees in it, so we didn’t stay long.
This cemetery has a very large Hispanic section that was impeccably maintained and brilliant with colored flowers, balloons, and small statues. We stood in the bright sunlight and just looked around for awhile, sweating because it was hot that day. There were statues of the Virgin, cherubs, rotating pinwheels, and solar lights. It looked like a very quiet party.
Some of the burials go back to the 1880’s and maybe even a little farther, but the cemetery is a good mix of modern and older burials. It’s worth a visit if you aren’t allergic to bees. Unfortunately there is no historical information on this cemetery, none that I could find, anyway. So I can’t say why the place was chosen as a burial site way back in 1880-something, but I always like visiting these places and wondering what was going on at that time.
There may be a lot of rules, but there is a lot of love here as well. You can feel it.