by L. Davis
This past February, I traveled with my beautiful wife, Maxine, to New Orleans. While she attended a national credit union convention, I, along with other member’s spouses, was provided the opportunity to have a convention-sponsored tour of our New Orleans.
The first stop on our tour was a French Quarter Cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery #1. We exited the bus and began our tour of the cemetery accompanied by our tour guide. Because the city is built on a swamp, the water level is too high to dig graves. The above-ground crypts and mausoleums were placed in long rows and divided into sections with paved pathways dividing them. They resemble small villages and have become known as “Cities of the Dead.”
The first thing I thought about was Ashley Judd in the movie, Double Jeopardy, and the part where she awoke in a casket in a crypt—which she luckily escaped.
More than one person can be buried in the crypts. Many of the crypts dated back to the 19thcentury and would have a list of names carved into their granite faces naming the persons entombed. One crypt we visited had the remains of 12 nuns from a convent buried in it. Our tour guide explained that each crypt had a shelf (or flat surface) built up from the floor of the crypt where a “hopefully” deceased body is placed. The shelf ends before it reaches the rear of the crypt—which creates a “pit” so as one body is replaced by another, the body (or skeleton) already placed on the shelf is pushed to the rear of the crypt and falls into the pit.
We were informed that Louisiana requires that a body must be in the crypt a year and a day before another body can be placed in the
crypt. If someone wishing to be buried in the same crypt dies before the year and a day time limit has passed, his/her body is placed in a temporary crypt (appropriately called the “cooler”) until the time limit has passed.
See you next week when our tour takes a livelier turn.