Highgate Cemetery - London - England

Memoirs of a Cemetery Caretaker

Imagine walking in a cemetery. The grass perfectly trimmed, the stairs swept, and the grave markers and tombstones are clean.

Your loved ones resting place is in good hands. This above is the job of a cemetery caretaker.


In some cultures, the consideration of this job is “unclean” or part of the “untouchables, ”because they work with the dead. It is because of their culture, it makes sense, but the media from this side of the world i.e western hemisphere — and Shakespeare’s The Gravedigger from Hamlet — shows a creepy old man, in all black, hunched over doing creepy things as an example of a gravedigger or caretaker.

St Mary Cemetery - California
St Mary Cemetery – California

It gives the idea that anyone that handles the dead are strange and dangerous, which is the farthest from the truth. The caretaker job is one of the oldest ones from around the world.

Their job differs from cemetery to cemetery, from culture to culture, but they all do the same thing. They are taking care of the deceased’s resting place.

My Cemetery

I am grateful that I worked in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Ferndale, California, for a whole summer. My job was to take care of the grounds, so I never got the chance to participate in the burial of a deceased.

I worked on the weekends when most people come to visit. A caretaker’s main job is to take care of the cemetery, but there is one part of the job that most people — and the media — forgets, and that’s giving support to the visitors.

St Mary Cemetery - California
St Mary Cemetery – California

When a visitor comes to the cemetery, they are thinking about their dead loved one. They are sometimes sad, other times they are happy, but overall they want to see that their family or friend are in good hands and respected.

When they walk up the stairs and swept, or when they stand at the grave, and there aren’t any weeds or animals droppings, they walk out of the cemetery feeling relieved. They are respected and in good care.

All About Respected

One day, I was told by my boss that an elderly gentleman was so happy that a young person was taking care of the cemetery; that they were raking the leaves and cutting the grass.

St Mary Cemetery - California
St Mary Cemetery – California

When someone goes to the cemetery, you’d think they would have an adverse reaction, surrounded by death. However, the fact that they noticed someone was taking care of the dead is a perfect example of what a caretaker is there for in their job.

They give visitor hope and relief. Life is hard, and a caretaker is just there to show love and support during a hard moment in someone’s life.

L.A. Maciel

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