||Yes, there is etiquette for cemeteries, as the last generation well knew. Families were not so scattered then, and the cemetery was behind your church – or on your property. The etiquette of a graveyard was absorbed in childhood. We should not have to note that there was no trash left in the cemetery, as trash would not have been left in any venue.|
One Sunday a month in the summer, we carried a picnic lunch to church, and afterwards had a picnic in the cemetery. Adults weeded the graves and gently cleaned the stones while children played. Children did not play rowdily; they played respectfully. They did not run in the graveyard, write on the tombstones of their ancestors, nor include the stones in their games. Voices are respectful; there should be no screaming or shouting.
Today, with so many families scattered across the country – and the world, one cannot depend on ‘good intentions’, one must actively research one’s intentions in order to be sure of proper behavior.
Many, with the best intentions of honoring those gone before, but faced with what will possibly be their only visit to a particular grave will commit atrocities unknown to themselves. There have been instances where people have applied flour in order to read worn tombstones. Flour is almost impossible to totally brush off afterwards. Even traces of this substance will become tacky and trap moisture, deteriorating the stone. Other substances will have chemicals or emollients that will discolor and eventually damage the stone.
Gravestone rubbing to collect and preserve artwork or family history is generally all right, but do learn to do it properly, and check with the cemetery caretaker for any rules specifically in that cemetery. There may be fragile stones there, which may be damaged by pressure on their surface.
Today’s digital cameras are wonderful for recording headstone information. After uploading onto your computer, edit the picture, choosing ‘invert colors’. Or ‘negative image’. The lettering will be sharp. If you select ‘save as’ and assign this picture a new name, you will retain the original image also.
If you feel you must clean a gravestone, use a soft brush, gentle motion, and plain water only.
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