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15/08 Saturday 12:29PM

visiting the dead

Text and images . Sarah Brown

Jim Morrison in Pere Lachaise – Paris France

'Jim’s this way,' my nephew Ryan yelled. We were searching for a dead man in a cemetery full of dead men.  Not the usual place you bring your family to when you are on holiday in Paris, France. But we are not a normal family and we spend a lot of time in cemeteries, so we might as well visit the famous ones.

Jim Morrison has always had a place in my limited musical heart. I think it has something to do with him dying of heart failure exactly 2 months before I was born (way back in the 70’s). The Doors smash hit ‘Hello I love You’ is a favourite of mine and inspired me during my art making days to produce a series of woodcut prints, entitled wait for it … ‘Hello I Love You’.



Jim, as he is referred to in the graffiti pointing fans in the right direction, is buried in Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise; the largest cemetery in the city limits of Paris.

Finding Jim is not easy even with a map and graffiti. I went in search with my sister, 16-year-old niece and 8-year-old nephew. The latter two had no idea who we were looking for, but they were as excited as I was when we found his extremely plain and damaged grave. Over the years people have stolen and smashed whatever has been placed at the gravesite. So today, a very simple stone commemorates his life and death. 

Even if you aren’t a Jim Morrison fan, Pere Lachaise is worth a visit. The narrow cobbled alleys are a piece of history housing simple headstones, lofty monuments and intricate chapels.

Bruce and Brandon Lee in Lake View Cemetery – Seattle USA

I was 1 when he died, and I always wanted a t-shirt of him, like my brother had. It feels appropriate to write about visiting Bruce Lee’s grave in the year of the dragon, as he himself was born a dragon in 1940. He moved to Seattle, USA in 1959 and that is where he and his son Brandon are buried, side-by-side.

 


The official word is Bruce died from an allergic reaction to painkillers. Brandon died 20 years later while making the film The Crowe. He was shot filming a scene with a real bullet instead of a fake one.

Visiting the Lees was at the top of my list of things to do. Finding their graves was a lot easier than finding Jim. Drive into the Lake View Cemetery, head for the flag pole and they are north east of it behind a little bush, giving them privacy from the other ‘guests’.

My cousin, friend and I took advantage of that privacy, paying homage to the martial artists with our rendition of the ‘moves’. I have to say I personally feel I had the best idea for the ‘moves’; however, my younger, more flexible cousin usurped me in the performance department.



We had fun at the cemetery relaxing, laughing, looking out at the amazing view down to the water and chatting by the strong, smooth and simple headstones. It was like an afternoon with old friends, old friends we had often watched on TV.

Eva (Evita) Peron in Recoleta Cemetery – Buenos Aires Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, new city new country, might as well make a trip to a cemetery. This time I chose to visit the final resting place of Evita, the woman Argentina cried for, irrespective of the song.

 


Eva Peron, became know as Evita and served as First Lady of Argentina while her husband Juan Peron ruled the country from 1946 until her death in 1952. She was a vocal advocate for education, health care and the rights of women and workers. She was loved by the masses; however, as all political figures do, she made enemies along the way.

These enemies made it difficult for her to reach her final resting place in Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires; it took 20 years for Evita to make this journey.

Before Juan Peron could finish Evita’s monument, which was to house her body in a glass coffin, he was overthrown by a military coup. For the following 2 years her body was moved from place to place around the city by the new regime. In 1957 they shipped her off to Milan, Italy for a secret burial in Musocco Cemetery. She lay there for 14 years until Juan discovered her location and had her exhumed and moved to live with him and his 3rd wife in Spain. A perfectly preserved Evita was kept in their family home.

In 1973 Juan left Evita in Spain, returned to Argentina from exile and was elected President again; this was temporary as he died in 1974. After this his 3rd wife returned Evita to Buenos Aires.

 


The journey was long and undoubtedly extremely strange for Evita; she finally made it to Recoleta Cemetery in 1975. She is buried in a special vault 20 feet under the ground and hopefully she is safe from any more movement in the future.

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