Contrary to Asaba Nollywood opinions, the cemetery should be a place of love and connection with your dead loved ones. And what better time to practice this than on Halloween?
Here’s how to do this right:
This goes without saying, but what’s Halloween or a special trip to visit an
dead old relative without a special costume? The scarier or more “dead inside” looking the better. This is your best opportunity to confuse your village people a little.
Visit on a special day
What day is more special to visit a burial ground than a day set aside to remember the dead? Public cemeteries like Atan Cemetery in Yaba, are open every day, so there are no restrictions on when you can visit. Just make sure to visit during the day and with people.
Talk to the dead
Talking to a physical symbol of your dead’s existence can reduce the feeling of separation. At the gravesite, tell them how much you miss them, share what’s happening in your daily life, reflect on the past and talk about your future plans. It may be difficult at first, but it can become happy and reflective over time.
Clean up the grave
If cleaning helps you to de-stress, you can clear the overgrown weeds or sweep leaves and garbage away from your loved ones’ graves. If the grave marker is dirty or has lost its shine over the years, clean it with water, a mild detergent and a soft, lint-free cloth.
But if gardening is what helps you de-stress, then go a step further by planting their favourite or a symbolic flower around the site. Or just leave a floral arrangement or wreath on the ledge stone.
Take a walk/tour
Did you know a section of Atan Cemetery is reserved for the British Government and maintained by the Commonwealth Office for Nigerian soldiers who died in service of the British Crown? Or that some of Lagos’ biggest historical figures are buried close to the entrance of Ikoyi Cemetery? Not every time Google. This Halloween, take a tour of your local cemetery for some real genealogical research.
Cemetery photography is a thing. The combination of headstones, monuments, grave decorations and the cemetery grounds can be aesthetically pleasing, particularly in the older, more private sections of our cemeteries.
Some consider it an invasion of privacy to take photos of headstones not associated with you. But if they allow it, observe the following etiquette: hide the names and details inscribed on the headstones when uploading to the internet, and don’t take photos of funeral services, mourners and other visitors.
Pay respect to fallen heroes
Atan Cemetery also holds the most World War II graves in Nigeria — 411 graves. The fenced and barricaded site is a notable landmark in Yaba that most people don’t know about. Pay your respects at the grave sites of fallen soldiers, and leave a coin — a military tradition — as a sign to the family members that their loved one isn’t forgotten.
Tip the caretakers
Like most low-ranked Nigerian government workers, cemetery caretakers earn minimum wage. They’re also often harassed and overshadowed by street thugs. Remember, you’ll be gone for another year or so. Having someone who’ll look after your dead while you’re away is not a bad idea.
Make it a tradition
The perfect way to keep your dead loved ones fresh in your memory is to visit their grave site every Halloween. This way, you can make sure someone doesn’t just exhume the grave and sell the site to another person after some years.