We Were Dismayed
We were dismayed to hear that the Forest Hills Cemetery had shut its gates to visitors who wished to seek refuge from their “sheltering in” and to spend time, often with their children, in a healthy, green and endlessly interesting place. We wondered what e. e. cummings would think, memorialized, as he is, by the marvelous vined arch near the pond that graces Forest Hills’ grounds. Lover of children’s sensibilities,and a man who never gave up his childlike perspective, perhaps there’s a clue in his poem called “maggie and milly and molly and may.” —
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.
Lockout During Lockdown
The management and trustees of the Forest Hills Cemetery have responded to lockdown with a lockout.
Granted they have the right and responsibility to maintain a quiet, respectful atmosphere where the bereaved can visit the graves of family and friends in peace. Granted they have the right to protect their trees from children whose parents do not restrain them. Granted, a cemetery is not a playground, a dog park or a raceway. Granted that children and adults should learn respect for the dead.
The cemetert management and trustees, however, are caretakers not just of a resting place for the dead but a sanctuary for the living. They are responsible, therefore, for sharing this place of peace and beauty with the people of Boston.
On the many occasions when I’ve walked through the cemetery, I’ve seen no signs instructing visitors specifically on what was and was not acceptable behavior. I saw no signs warning visitors that violation of these guidelines might result ian closing the cemetery. This was and is regrettable because this was an occasion to educate the public, as the Arboretum has done, not shut them out.
As far as I know the management and trustees did little or nothing until they slammed shut the iron gates at the entrance, forcing more graciously-minded institutions in Jamaica Plain to deal with even more visitors.
The Forest Hills Cemetery is not a world to itself. Like the Arboretum, Franklin Park and Jamaica Pond, it is part of a community. And if the management and trustees do not realize this, it may be time for city officials to remind them.
For, when the worst of this pandemic is over, have we any reason to expect that the gates of the cemetery will open again to the public? Can those of us who own lots at Forest Hills feel certain that our friends and family will be free to visit our graves when we are gone? And how will the management and trustees of the cemetery live with a reputation for shutting its doors to the hard-pressed people of Boston when they most needed this place of peace and beauty?