Yes, I slept in a cemetery last night. Technically, I was not actually IN the cemetery. I was camped well outside the fence. (That is why the ghosts could not get to me.) hahaha
I was driving into Missouri from Western Kentucky. I was completely unfamiliar with the area I was entering; just following my GPS to the free campsite. I came upon a sign pointed right> toward the recreation area, but my GPS pointed me straight ahead^ toward the camp. I obeyed my GPS. I reasoned to myself, “Maybe the paid camping is over there, and the free camping is over here.” It was totally plausible.
When the familiar female maps voice lilted, “You’ve arrived,” I crept to a stop, looked around and furrowed my brow. “Are you sure?” I responded. Number one, I was sitting in the middle of the dirt road I was following. Number two, I was in a cemetery. There were at least three distinct plot areas I could see from where I sat: one large, fenced-in plot stretching out on my left, and two open, smaller plots falling behind me. A small white church sat on the grounds as well. Where exactly have I arrived?
I scanned the area for any No Trespassing! signs. There were none. There was, however, a sign on the front of the little white church that read, “YE WHO TAKE SHELTER HERE REMEMBER THIS IS GOD’S HOUSE”. Well, they aren’t discouraging visitors, I thought.
I contemplated what to do next. I figured that the actual campsite must be further down the way. I continued following the dirt road until it dead-ended (pardon the pun) just above Lake Ouachita in a wide, pebbled, circular clearing that looked like any other secluded campsite I had visited in my travels. There was even the charred remnants of a campfire. The lake flung itself out gracefully from east to west, and the sun was beginning its decent. A few careful steps down the dirt and rock and embankment, and I would be standing on the beach. It seemed a very fine campsite indeed, save for the cemetery.
I have become accustomed to cemeteries, especially in my travels. I have toured and photographed a number of grave sites recently. I didn’t feel a sense of creepiness at all. On the contrary, I have developed a deep reverence for these grounds, the love and memories they hold, and the holy voids they contain.
I decided to stay. I really liked the place. The birds were singing and the squirrels were playing. The water was gently lapping the shore below. The sky was being painted by the setting sun. It was peaceful and serene, and I was sure to have it all to myself. This was a gift.
The evening progressed steadily and surely toward dusk. I took some photographs, just for fun. I fed Justice and then myself. There was no internet here, but I had cell service, and I enjoyed my usual evening chat with my fiance. After, it was silent.
As the dark of night settled over us, the first uneasy stirrings began. My mind got edgy and disturbed. I kept feeling the urge to look over my shoulder, back toward the cemetery. I told myself I was being silly. But my mind kept trying to project images from that movie, The Sixth Sense. I see dead people. It reminded me how the ghosts wanted to interact with the living boy. They wanted something from him. I shuddered. Then I gently but firmly pushed the images out of my mind. I refused to entertain them, no matter how my psyche complained.
Suddenly my mind gripped me and insisted I turn the car around to face the exit, right now do it now, just in case we needed to make a quick getaway. I actually laughed out loud at this suggestion. Oh how the mind can play games with you, if you let it. I took a deep breath. I declined. I wanted the car facing east, so I could watch the sunrise in the morning.
All night long, my mind tried to get me quaking with thoughts and feelings related to the cemetery nearby. Over and over I pushed them gently and firmly aside. I remember being plagued by many such nights as a little girl, when I cowered under the covers, eyes wide, fearing the monster under my bed or the demon in my closet. Only I am older and stronger now. Fear is not my master. Should something extra-sensory actually occur, I trusted myself to know what to do in that moment. Worry is not a welcome bedfellow. This I have learned with great gratitude.
In the morning, I decided to explore and honor the cemetery and the church before moving on. I found out these grounds are all that remain of the original location of the town of Buckville. The residents once built their lives in the area now covered by Lake Ouachita. The church itself had been moved from the valley floor in 1951 to prevent it from being covered by water. It is now listed on the registry of historic places.
I had spent the night on hallowed grounds. I had wrestled with my fear. Now I was walking away with my blessing. You can do the same. It doesn’t take a cemetery to confront the fears in your mind. Grace and peace belong to any who do likewise.