On the way home from meeting my brother in Dublin, Georgia at the Cracker Barrel for a Saturday morning brunch to take him his childhood bedroom furniture of cherrywood given to him by our grandfather, we stopped at the Macon graveyard. The main historic one is technically called the Rose Hill Cemetery, but it borders others nearby, making it feel like one enormous eternal sleepover of resting dead.
On the way down, I’d quipped, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Macon Graveyard. We should stop by on our way home if it’s not raining.” I was thinking of my camera in the back seat, how I’d brought it along just in case today turned out to be the day I felt like shopping for a zoom lens for an upcoming trip.
I asked if he’d ever been.
“I’ve never even heard of it,” he told me.
“We have to change that today. It’s where Greg Allman is buried.” A few years back when he died, Cher and other music superstars had all gathered here to lay their loved one to rest.
I love walking through graveyards. It’s not really as much of a morbid fascination as it is a way of reminding myself that these people were once breathing the air I’m breathing, living their days pursuing dreams, and then it all came to an end in one moment. As it will for all of us. Walks through places like these can spark a desire in us to live each day to the fullest, to seek peace in relationships and allow pride to be set aside as we move toward our marks – to regain focus on what really matters. Or to maybe even find the perfect headstone for ourselves when we die, like that open book headstone that blankets two people.
What I’ve always wished was on every headstone was a QR Code that would let me scan it and come to know the person resting there beneath my feet. Like really see them in the flesh, smiling as they graduated school full of hope, then at the altar getting married, cradling infants years later, becoming grandparents, celebrating golden anniversaries and celebrating other milestones. I want to know their hobbies and what they did while they lived – to know their favorite books and favorite songs, the unique footprint they made here. A way to bring every graveyard to life and keep the spirits of the dead alive might be as simple as attaching to the QR Codes the funeral Powerpoints that scroll as people are waiting in lines to speak words of comfort to grieving families.
Before we’d arrived, I turned on my hotspot driving down I-16 and did a little research on the Allman Brothers Band, and Little Martha and the Bond Monument and all the cemetery places associated with their music. Someone had posted driving directions to get to these plots from the front gate, so I navigated as my husband drove. We parked and met up with some motorcyclists with fingerless leather gloves paying their respects to the members of the band, and I took their picture for them. They let us snap a picture of their map that would help us locate the other places to see.
On the way home, we also stopped at the grave of Ronnie Hammond, lead singer of The Atlanta Rhythm Section, who is buried by his wife in Forsyth, Georgia in Monroe Memorial Cemetery. I just wonder how many people walk graves each day all across this country, not really knowing those buried in these sacred spaces. I wished that we could have scanned a QR Code that would have given us some pictures of Ronnie, a few clips of his music, and maybe even a music video to see him alive and in person before he crossed the finish line.
Maybe someday in the not too distant future, cemetery QR Codes will be a thing. If I were one of those prophetic science fiction writers, I might even predict gravestones of the future not with built-in screens but with those kinds that shine up off the headstone like laser-light and start playing messages from the dearly deceased just like the lights in the frozen food section that come on when shoppers get within feet of the cases of frozen pizzas or vegetables.
And maybe those who’d known the end was approaching would have special messages that encouraged us to live every day like it’s our last.
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.