Freeway Free in France: A Drizzly Day Among the Honored Dead
What better way to spend a gray and drizzly Sunday in Paris than wandering around the cemetery of Pere-La-Chaise, site of burial of many notable and not-so-notables of recent (since the 1800’s ) French history? The requirement for burial here is that one must have been a French citizen OR have died in France (which is why Jim Morrison and Maria Callas are here.) WB and I spent several contemplative hours in the light rain contemplating the mortality of such immortals as Delacroix, whose masterpiece “The Raft of the Medusa” is harrowingly evoked in bas relief on his tomb.
Armed with a tour map, and assisted by an elfin elderly man whose mission in retirement was to guide tourists to the most remote celebrities, we did the [ghost] town, paying our respects to Heloise and Abelard side by side in death as they were denied in life, plus Colette, Modigliani, Edith Piaf, Honore de Balzac, Maria Callas, and many others .
Somehow I ended up with no pictures of Jim Morrison’s grave site, but fortunately there are plenty of places on the web you can check out. At present the site is cordoned off to prevent the vandalism which you can see documented at the link I provided. Strange for fans to show their admiration by trashing the grave.
A whole section of the cemetery consists of memorials to French citizens deported by the Nazis during the World War II Occupation. It seems as thought the French conscience is still uneasy at what was allowed to happen to its citizens during that fraught time.
And of course, there are a number of sites with memorable sculpture and meaningful inscriptions honoring people of whom one has never heard. I would like passers-by to pause by my grave one day and wonder what sort of person chose my epitaph, as I wonder about Mssrs Kieffer, Percheron, and Maria.
“Nothing which does not fall, and does not decay!
Mysterious abyss where the spirit hides!
A few feet underground silence abides
And so much noise above in light of day!
-V. H. [could be Victor Hugo?]