A Strange Place for Exercise

I walk and/or run almost every day for exercise. I’ve always loved to run, but my knees just don’t tolerate it as much these days so I alternate between running and walking. My favorite place to exercise is a nearby cemetery. I must admit, I do get some strange looks from people when the topic comes up.  I guess walking in a cemetery isn’t completely unheard of because I have actually seen a few other people walking there. A few days ago someone laughed and said I must be “whistling past the graveyard.” I just smiled, and I had to look it up later.

Apparently “whistling past the graveyard” is an old saying which indicates a form of bravery when doing something that might be dangerous or difficult. I had to think about that one for awhile because I don’t find graveyards to be scary simply because they’re the home of those who have passed away. Now I might be afraid of living people hanging out in a graveyard, but as I mentioned earlier, I rarely see many people when I walk. There are occasionally other walkers, those who are visiting gravesites of their loved ones, and, of course, the men who dig the graves. None of these create a bit of fear for me.

The Safest Place in Town

I find the cemetery to actually be the safest place in town especially for a walker. There’s no traffic, at least no speeding traffic, the roadway is in good shape, and I can wear my headphones with the volume turned up pretty loud. I listen to electronica/dance music as I walk because the beat helps me walk faster…the loud volume seems to move me along, as well. As I walk, I’m often a bit unaware of my surroundings so I feel like the cemetery is a safe place for losing one’s self in the rhythm of vigorous physical activity.

There are times when I pay more attention to my surroundings, to the gravestones, in particular. The names, the dates, the inscriptions, the stories. For me, every one there had a story and I often try to decipher their lives through their headstones. Were they from a well-to-do family? Why did they die so young? I might consider the timeframe between the deaths of a couple or wonder about the non-conformity of a headstone from the early 1900’s. What was the headstone trying to convey about the person buried there. Occasionally I see more specific messages of grief and pain etched on a headstone, indicating a depth of love and sorrow beyond the usual routine death notice. There is so much to explore while walking and sometimes the stories do capture my imagination.

What Would They Say to Me?

As a heart attack survivor, I’ve spent many nights wondering if I would wake up the next morning. Perhaps that sounds a bit melodramatic, but if you’ve been there you totally understand. As I walk in the cemetery, I always have a sense of urgency, almost as if the group is cheering me on. With perhaps a few exceptions, I imagine every one there would encourage me to get on with living because no matter what spiritual beliefs you hold about the next world, there is a sense of finality in the cemetery.

So, I imagine those who went before me might be cheering me on as I walk or run by. As strange as that sounds, I believe if they had a voice they would encourage me, and you, to live life to the fullest. So I don’t suppose I really whistle past the graveyard since I don’t consider it to be a scary place. While we will all end up there in some form some day, consider a line from Game of Thrones and say to Death—”Not today.” Today, I’m exercising for health, dreaming my dreams, making my plans, and moving forward. Yesterday slipped through my hands like sand and tomorrow isn’t promised…today, they say to me, live life today.

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