A few weeks back, I read an article in the local newspaper about a soccer fan club cemetery. Kind of a strange idea, but must be a gap in the market that had to be filled. My first thought was of the kitschy-tacky pet cemeteries which sprang up years ago.
But then my thoughts went back to something that I had wanted to do in Greece. Greeks have an absurd relationship with death and final resting places(if you’ve ever been to a Greek funeral, you will know exactly what I am talking about, literally anything is possible there) There is no cremation, Greek Orthodox ideology does not believe in it, in order to go to heaven you need your body(what happens if you happen to die in a fire???). No matter how ridiculous that is, cause if you are extremely wealthy, you can buy a plot, but the rule is 3 years in the ground(rent), then you are summoned to the grave side and have to be present, while your loved one is exhumed(take my word for it, that is not something you will easily forget). If the body is far enough decayed(if not, you don’t want to know), the bones are washed and bleached and then there is an option to either purchase a wall box, metal box in the ossuary or the fate of all unclaimed and unattended(unpaid for) the ossuary well. I still have not figured out just how, a deceased will enter heaven, just in a pile of bones wrapped in black plastic bags or little metal crates… It all makes no sense.
As you can see, I must have some sort of weird fascination with death and I probably do. I love walking through cemeteries, reading names and dates and looking at pictures, if there are any. Some of the most impressive forms of honoring the dead are road side memorials. But these are reserved mostly for those who departed this life violently in an accident. Greek roadsides and bridge underpasses, as well as light and electricity pylons are full of these tragic reminders. I suppose that, the place where someone dies, is a location where the spirit is believed to linger and you can see how well tended they are for years and years. Probably longer than the actual graves. (And I don’t think that you require a permit to set them up).
So, long ago I wanted to photograph them and put them into a book. Partly to honor my own brother who departed this world in pretty much the same fashion, just a 10 year old crossing the street, run over by a drunk driver…and partly because some of these shrines are so creative(huge paintings of the person and a YOU WILL LIVE FOREVER IN OUR MEMORIES, paint chipping and fading, but beautiful). They are so touching and actually may be reminders to passing cars, that they are moving on dangerous turf.
I no longer think that I will collect the tributes to bereavement on Greek road sides. Though, Germany in recent years has started its own culture for honoring the brutally departed, its not the same. Maybe, I will visit my brothers grave in the since closed cemetery, a park today with a few grave stones left…