A few weeks ago Janice Tennant Campbell put a photo on my page saying I was a taphophile. A taphophile is someone who loves cemeteries and funerals. Canadian Headstones.com is where gravers spend time when they’re not in cemeteries. It’s a sprawling database of thousands of burial records. Each record consists of a page where the living can enter a deceased’s name, and find the burial location These hard-core gravers, like genealogists, have built a culture around documenting the dead. Some ask me about my search for history and say,
Really? You don’t have anything better to do than this?”
I can assure you I don’t spend all my free time with dead people.
Taphophilia has always seemed a strange term to me. Perhaps it’s too scientific, or maybe it smacks just a bit too much of hipsterism. Akin to the idea of cemetery collector, I’ve always fashioned myself as a memory collector, pocketing the histories of men and women long gone and yet still oddly alive when I stroll past their stones. It’s always about memories, even on a mission at the Oakland California cemetery last year looking for the Black Dahlia’s grave.
I don’t feel I am morbid and like to talk about death all the time, in fact I think I have a pretty laid-back attitude toward graving. But I do take time to note strange names—or the forgotten. A cemetery is a powerful place. With all its lifelessness, it is mighty and compels me to think about my choices: Do I make a contribution? Do I live my passions? Do I make a difference?