Voices of the Dead: Memories in the Cemeteries

This week some of our local actors dressed up in period costume to play the part of dead people. Appearing from behind trees or rising up from behind gravestones in the Valhalla Cemetery, the actors became some of those long dead, telling their stories in the dark of night. One was a Civil War veteran, another a gangster, another a woman who murdered her millionaire husband. Members of the local writers guild researched nine chosen interred with the help of the genealogical society and penned 8-minute narratives for each. They tried to capture not only history, but the personalities of their subjects. Some were able to interview family members. Audience reaction was good, and some families even requested their deceased relatives be included in next year’s Voices of Valhalla.

“I guess everybody has a story,” said one guest. “It’s a different way to look at a cemetery,” said another, as reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Today I walked across the graves of many in St. Louis’s famous old Bellefontaine Cemetery, snapping photos and stopping to think about lives. Especially tiny lives that ended too soon, often marked by worn lambs atop small blocks of concrete or marble. The old gravestones carry so much more feeling than the new, plain markers, but all have their stories. Did the stories get told? Did children pass them on? We can only wonder at the secret lives, the hardships and joys, now just pretty monuments to gather fall leaves and act as obstacles to a lone coyote trotting past. The autumn breeze whispers, “Tell your stories before it’s too late.”

My Bellefontaine Cemetery movie

from Calvary Cemetery, next to Bellefontaine

About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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