Other things to find in a cemetery aside from death

By Bhriana Smith | Published October 22, 2015

If you were to tell someone that you were going on a field trip, there are bound to be a myriad of places that come to mind. A cemetery is more than most likely not on that list; however, for Dr. Norma Bowe, a tenured professor in the College of Education at Kean University, this field trip is anything but unordinary.


Dr. Bowe teaches a 3000 level course called Death in Perspective at Kean, which currently has a three year long waiting list. Among other things, the class is designed to elucidate the concepts of death and bereavement. There isn’t a better trip to begin exploring death than a cemetery scavenger hunt.

The class was instructed to meet at the 1982 Mercedes Benz tombstone, located in the northern region of the Rosedale Cemetery in Linden, NJ. The tombstone belonged to Ray Tse Jr., who died in 1981 at the age of 15. According to Dr. Bowe, Tse had died before he was old enough to drive the car that he longed to drive, and to commemorate his death, his wealthy brother had the car used as his tombstone.

From there, the class was instructed to engage in a scavenger hunt. We were given a myriad of things to find. From eternal love and children, to graves that were “too new”; the possibilities were endless. Prior to this trip, I had only believed that the only things that could be found in cemeteries were dead bodies and the occasional ghost.Death2

In the beginning, the trip was eerie. I was constantly muttering “sorry” to all the graves I had stepped on as I vigorously looked for the items on my scavenger hunt list. The idea that love or anything but death and ghost could exist in a cemetery was completely irrational in my mind, but I was determined to find them.

There was a very distinct mausoleum on the far northern region of the cemetery. On the left side of the mausoleum, was a beautiful sketching of the boardwalk in Atlantic City. On the right, I saw a beautiful eulogy to the deceased –Edith –written by her husband. It was in that moment that I had found true love in the cemetery, and then that I knew that there were so many more things to be found in cemeteries aside from death.

There were more graves that I could count, but each one had a story. Another heartfelt one was a grave for a four-year-old boy who had passed away. His tombstone was constructed out of Legos, and the flowers that surrounded the tomb were fresh, though the grave had been there for years: another amazing citing for eternal love.

For a detailed background about Dr. Bowe, you can read the “The Death Class: A Book.


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