I’ve known M. Parfitt since the late 90s, when she submitted a wonderful essay about dressing up as a little girl for an after-dark tour of Sacramento, California’s Old City Cemetery to my Morbid Curiosity magazine. You can read that story here.
The essay she submitted to Death’s Garden Revisited is about becoming a tour guide at the Old City Cemetery. Her dedication to the people she brings back to life on her tours is really inspiring.
Officially, M. Parfitt is an artist, writer, collector of exquisitely awful junk, keeper of hair, and hoarder of yellowed newspaper clippings. You may find her wandering down a deserted alley, traipsing through an old cemetery, or peering into an abandoned warehouse. Her collages incorporate photographs, bloodstained paper, and other unexpected materials.
What’s your favorite thing to do in a cemetery?
Take photos, look for “Mattie” on headstones, and (in the Historic City Cemetery) tell stories!
Tell me about your favorite cemetery.
Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery is as old as the City of Sacramento and it’s the permanent home of more than 25,000 interesting people. It’s always been a city-owned cemetery, so it’s a very egalitarian place. When I give tours, I tell visitors that any color, any creed, any race, any religion, ANYONE could be buried there. The only color that mattered was green — if you could afford a plot, you could be buried there. There are still about a dozen interments a year, but if you want to spend eternity there, you better have a deed or proof that your ancestors bought a plot, because that’s the only way to get in now. That means I’ll never be buried there, but that’s fine — I just want a little bit of my ashes tossed in on a windy day so they scatter to different plots and sections.
Is there a cemetery or gravesite you’ve always wanted to visit?
I would love to visit Highgate Cemetery in London.
Do you have a favorite song about cemeteries or graveyards?
“Long Black Veil.” It’s been recorded a million times, but Johnny Cash’s version is my favorite.
I had a lot of fun putting together a playlist of cemetery songs recommended by the Death’s Garden Revisited contributors. You can listen to it here.
I would also love it if you’d check out Death’s Garden Revisited, which is available for preorder on Kickstarter now. This beautiful book will be full of 40 amazing essays about why visiting cemeteries is important. Check it out — and please consider joining the other backers: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lorenrhoads/deaths-garden-revisited-relationships-with-cemeteries