Disappointed in cemetery decision


To the Editor:

I write to express my deep disappointment in the decision of the Sylva Town Board on Dec. 2 to deny St. Mary’s Catholic Church’s request for a cemetery.

Though the participants in that hearing were divided, one thing we all have in common is that we will all die one day. And when we do, we’ll need a place to be laid to rest. Many of our parishioners hope that place will be right here in Sylva, in the community we have made our home. St. Mary’s has been a fixture in Sylva since 1955. I’ve been a member there for more than 20 years, and as long as I can recall, there have been hopes of one day erecting a cemetery on our property, so that we might have a place to remember our beloved dead.

One opponent, quoted in the Dec. 9 Herald said cemeteries are “spooky.” She doesn’t want to look at what she describes as “a yard full of deceased people.” Others who spoke against the cemetery at the public hearing expressed the same opinion. The point was made that our parishioners come to worship and then return to our homes, so we wouldn’t have to see the cemetery all the time. But that’s just the point. We want to see it all the time. We want to see where our loved ones are buried, awaiting the Resurrection, in the hope that we will be reunited with them on that glorious day.

It is quite common for cemeteries to be located in neighborhoods and on church grounds. Many of our county’s older communities have cemeteries. I live a stone’s throw from one of them and feel honored to do so. I always stop what I’m doing and offer a silent prayer when I see a funeral procession drive down my street. When I was a student at Western Carolina University I used to park my car behind the library and walk past the cemetery at Cullowhee Baptist Church on my way to classes. I would read the names on the grave markers and wonder about their lives. Cemeteries serve as important reminders of those who have gone before us. They also remind us of our own mortality. We will all end up in the grave one day. We should live so as to be ready to die – and when we do, we should all have a final resting place of dignity.

Our modern society prefers to keep death hidden. More people die in hospitals and institutions than at home. Professionals care for the body after death, not family members. This is precisely why cemeteries are so important. They are one of the few remaining places that invite us to confront our own mortality. The fact that our neighbors find that so distasteful only testifies to the greatness of that need.

Rev. Matthew Newsom, Deacon, St. Mary’s 

Catholic Church