Here we are at the end of Week 3. I’ve stopped whining now. I guess that’s what’s called acceptance.
This Tuesday night, President Macron will tell us our fate for the holidays, so we’ll see how jolly we’ll be. Until then, I’ve decided to take my wellbeing into my own hands. I’m doing Qigong every morning. I’ve cut out sugar, and cut down on excess fat and salt. And I’m getting the body moving because, let’s face it, confinement is the new smoking.
So, every day I take a walk—good for both body and mind. I never have a plan; I just start walking and follow my whims. Today, I wandered into the 20th arrondissement, which is still in my 1K confinement zone (I live on the cusp of three districts: 11th 12th, 20th). I found myself on one of my favorite streets, a tiny lane that leads to Père Lachaise Cemetery. The cemetery gate was open, offering me a shortcut to home. So I took it.
It was a beautiful day, and I wasn’t alone. There were others taking the same stroll—couples, families, friends. The cemetery has its share of visitors thanks to its size, beauty, and famous residents from Edith Piaf to Oscar Wilde.
I’m not sure why people like cemeteries so much; in Italy they even picnic in them. I also like to explore a good cemetery now and then, especially old ones like Père Lachaise, although the last time I was here was for the funeral of a friend. The last two times, actually. I suppose that’s a sign that I really live here.
It’s not so much the celebrity residents that interest me at Père Lachaise; it’s the regular folk—the families who each have a sepulcher, like little houses of the dead lined up in this neighborhood of souls. And just like in life, the richer you are, the bigger and more showy your home.
I don’t find cemeteries depressing (unless I’m burying someone). And they’re not macabre to me at all. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m Italian and we’re a fatalist breed. My mom and her sisters’ favorite pastime was talking about who died over coffee. “You know how died?” “No! He was only 72.” Or maybe, being the youngest in my family, it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time in them.
But when you think about it, for all the people buried under the ground, cemeteries aren’t for the dead. They’re for us, the living—a place where we celebrate the life of someone we love. And it’s the only place where, even if you’re a nobody, you get a monument. Maybe that’s why cemeteries don’t bring me down. It’s a place of lives remembered. And that’s always a beautiful thing.
Remembering all the souls lost to Covid-19.
Here’s little of what I saw at Père Lachaise Cemetery: