As someone with a profound interest in and curiosity about death culture, I was very excited when visiting family last summer I had the opportunity to visit several cemeteries outside of Denver, Colorado. Headstones can tell us so much about the past and I am endlessly fascinated with them as rich sources of material culture, and taking the time to visit them instills within me a sense of connection to peoples, places, and times that feel so out of reach and foreign. One cemetery in particular, located in an abandoned-ish mining town, gave me more pause than usual. I was caught off guard by just how… active this cemetery is. There were so many gifts left throughout the cemetery, many more than I am used to seeing, particularly where the headstones have been so worn and weathered as to be nearly indecipherable. As I worked my way throughout the cemetery, which had been built into the landscape and not the other way around, I found countless children’s toys, coins, and even small works of art left as tokens of respect for those who had passed long ago. This experience instilled in me the notion that the connections that exist between the living and the dead are very real and that our humanity brings us together, with brief fleeting moments and offerings facilitating the very real exchanges between the past and the present for which so many long.

– Kendyl Schmidt (Ph.D. Student)