July 8, 2008

a place of peace

Posted in paris tagged , , at 9:57 am by Malia Yoshioka

i once decided that when i die, i want my ashes scattered all over the globe. i told my friend christy about it awhile ago and promised to make a list of places so that she could direct my little post-mortem scavenger hunt. i’d like all my friends to either pick a place from my list OR to think of somewhere that they’d always wanted to go and to take me with them.

i never wanted to be buried because i can’t imagine spending eternity rooted to one spot. lately it seems as if i can’t spend more than a few weeks rooted to any spot! maybe it sounds a little macabre, but hey, no one can argue with me when i’m dead, right?

pere lachaise cemetery, paris

but wandering the broad, avenue-like pathways of paris’s pere lachaise cemetery made me think twice. this cemetery is like none that i’ve ever seen….

pere lachaise cemetery, paris

many of the tombs are like little monuments…

pere lachaise cemetery, paris
pere lachaise cemetery, paris

if you wander long enough, you’ll find some recognizable names among the tombstones….

jim morrison (of “the doors”)
pere lachaise cemetery, paris

the composer chopin
pere lachaise cemetery, paris

the famous lovers heloise and abelard, who were originally moved to the cemetery in order to attract more “permanent residents”. the inscription on their tomb reads: “here lies heloise and abelard, reunited in the grave.”
pere lachaise cemetery, paris

every headstone or gravesite tells a story. there are some that are obviously maintained meticulously by the loved ones who come often to put in fresh flowers or mementos, to clear any weeds, or to pray in the small family tombs (complete with stained glass windows and kneeling benches). as you wander the rows of plots, every once in a while you’ll find the scent of freshly cut flowers like those that cover chopin’s or jim morrison’s graves.

pere lachaise cemetery, paris

even more telling are the stories of the graves that have fallen into disrepair. as i walked by the crumbing, moss-covered headstones of one plot, it made me wonder what had happened to the family of the woman who’d passed away. had they moved? had a family feud that kept them away purposely? what if there’d been an end to the lineage, and there was simply no one left? i wonder what my grave would look like a hundred years after i’d been laid to rest…. my eyes wandered over the wilting floral arrangement on a newly laid tomb and i shivered as a chill came over me. i’m not sure if it was the fact that the sun had slipped behind the clouds, or something else, but i held my sweater tight around my shoulders and walked on.

my favorite grave in the cemetery is this one:
pere lachaise cemetery, paris

there were no names, dates, pictures, or famous quotes on the front of the headstone. it simply read “24/35.” there was a rose bush growing on the plot, and the green leaves stretched almost to the same height as the grave marker. all but one solitary red rose had been clipped, and i stared at it for quite some time, just looking at the contrast of the blood red petals against the blue sky above. the lack of information on this particular grave created such an air of mystery, and i knew it would stick with me long after i’d left the grounds.

it was really interesting to walk through the aisles of pere lachaise. i normally don’t take pictures in cemeteries out of respect for the dead, but in this case it felt like the atmosphere of the cemetery called more for remembrance and celebration than a subdued, solemn respect. the broad cobblestone streets between the cemeteries sections seemed almost quaint, and there were many benches and expanses of grass and park for people to sit and reflect.

i still think i’d prefer to stick to my original plan, but if there were anywhere on earth i’d want to be buried, it would definitely be someplace like pere lachaise. i’d highly recommend a visit if you’re in paris – and why not bring along some flowers for the graves of those with no one left? i definitely plan to go back…



  1. Mom said,

    good read

  2. christy said,

    malia, i am so enjoying journeying with you through your writing, both in your blog and in your emails. i love what you’re doing. it makes me so happy for you, proud of you, and even jealous, which is good because it lights that fire beneath me to start doing more things like this too. this was a lovely piece. i wish i could have seen the pics (this computer doesn’t show them).

  3. Brianne said,

    yeah, you’re writing is awesome!!! =0 I totally envision reading the latest book from our own resident (or non-resident) author — Malia Y.!

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