Sep 12, 2009

Louisiana: New Orleans. The Cemeteries, Pre-Katrina

Because New Orleans is at sea level, most bodies are buried above ground so they don't cut loose and float around. This photo is from my tour of the New Orleans Cemetery. The wealthy families have tombs with a few vaults. A body is placed in a vault and can't be re-opened for a year and a day, the customary time for the body to decay. After that, the vault can be opened, the bones shoved to the back or in a special section called a "cave" at the bottom of the entire tomb, and another body placed inside the vault.

There are cemeteries with cheaper, rental vaults, which I presume one rents for a year and a day, until the body has decayed. Also, the wealthy might use a rental vault if several family members die within the same year and they have to wait before placing them all in one vault. The rental vaults for poorer families who have no tomb of their own are set in a huge tomb or, more likely, a long wall of vaults surrounding the cemetery as shown here behind me. This is in the St. Louis One cemetery, which was being remodeled as you see in the upper left corner. I kind of like the old versions myself.
Each family is responsible to maintain their tomb or vault and are allowed to decorate it any way they like. You might find a blue one next to a yellow one, next to the white one..... The families come to the cemetery on All Saints Day to do upkeep on the tomb. The whole family comes in work clothes except for the matriarch. She is all decked out -- dress, gloves and hat. She sits in a lawn chair drinking wine, eating crackers and cheese and retelling family history and legends. She is very appreciative of her family fixing up and whitewashing the family tomb.
I think we should adopt this manner of All Saints Day here in my neck of the woods. Nana could really tell us some stories. But I can't see her in the gloves and hat.

1 comment:

driftwood said...

I told Ruth to cremate me when I die and to spread my ashes on the driveway in the winter when the driveway is covered with ice or snow. That way I can still be useful even after I passed away.