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Cemetery Conversations

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—The kinds of conversations one has in a cemetery are unlike most others. As we snaked our way through Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina—our efforts to find the tomb of the famous Eva Peron becoming increasingly fruitless by the minute—I became more and more at ease with this fact.

There in that cemetery my friends and I got lost. Lost in conversation. Walking amongst the exquisite domes paying homage to the great of Argentina, it seemed natural to imagine out loud how we ourselves wanted to be buried. Conversations predicting our inevitable ends was not gruesome, but welcome, and it tickled me that after just two weeks of knowing some of the people on my program, I could tell you whether or not they would prefer that you bury them or scatter their ashes, pull the plug or sit by their side if ever they lost control of their own bodies.

So many of the cemeteries I’ve seen in the United States are set off on the opposite side of the road. They’re set apart from the bustling sounds of the towns that surround them, their manicured lawns sitting deafeningly silent. They’re intimidating. But the Recoleta Cemetery does not sit isolated and aside from the life that surrounds it. Rather, it sits on a bustling street corner, its gates opening to a street fair lined with little stands and food carts, a patch of grass where street performers play their music and families gather sipping mate on the weekends. There Recoleta Cemetery stands, a reminder that death is not separate from life, but a part of it.

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