From an artistic perspective, many of us enjoy cemeteries. I’ve even done gravestone rubbings. My dad’s side of the family is at rest in an old-for-the-US picturesque cemetery overlooking East Lake Okoboji in Iowa, and my parent’s fifteen-foot black marble Celtic cross faces their past lake home. “Room for all if you want to be cremated,” my dad had said, ha ha.
Nothing compares to the ancient Greeks who developed the earliest commemorative funerary architecture in Europe and the Middle East. As in ancient Rome, the dead were buried outside city walls, along roadways entering the city, in highly visible funerary monuments to preserve an individual’s fame, family honor, and standing in society. The Grave Stele of Hegeso, Athens, c. 410 – 400 BCE is marble, 5’2″ high and is now in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Hegeso was wealthy enough in life to have one of her servants hold her jewelry box for her to select something, and in death for someone to pay for this touching, and rewarding relief or stele. Isn’t this a beautiful piece? The tomb was a meeting place for the living and the departed, and families would hold feasts at the tomb, putting out food and drink for the dead to enjoy.
In Buddhist cultures today, families celebrate loved ones on their death day, with food.