I’ll keep this post on the serious side, friends. I had a remarkable Saturday this past weekend, and I want to share it with you.
You might recall my post in January where I reflected on the funeral of Joe Ledlie. Joe was an Atlanta icon, a talented writer, a southern gentleman and a good friend. His youngest daughter, Kathryn, is one of my closest friends from high school, and she was kind enough to take me, my wife Chantel, and our other high school friend Andrew to visit Joe’s grave. I’d been wanting to visit him ever since he passed away, and we were blessed by extraordinarily good weather. It felt like Joe was smiling on us.
The Ledlies had Joe laid to rest at Honey Creek Woodlands. It’s a cemetery managed by the monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, about a 35-minute drive southeast of Atlanta. This cemetery is a reminder that you don’t have to go far from Atlanta to disappear into nature. Whether religious or not, I urge you to visit this gem (both the Monastery and the cemetery).
Honey Creek Woodlands is dedicated to natural burials. The land is under a conservation easement, and so is protected from future development. They do not allow for embalming, keeping carcinogenic formaldehyde out of the ground. Bodies are wrapped in shrouds or put in biodegradable containers, allowing the earth to break the bodies down as has been done in traditional burials for thousands of years. Graves are then marked with a stone resting on the ground, with the deceased’s epitaph engraved upon it. The cemetery is open to people of all faiths, so long as you are willing to comply with their simplistic and naturalistic requirements.
What really sets Honey Creek Woodlands apart, however, is the feel of the place. I’ve been to numerous cemeteries to pay respects to deceased family and friends, but this visit felt different. As you arrive, you leave your car behind and take a golf cart the rest of the way to the grave sites. The path takes you through pine trees and across Honey Creek to a gentle meadow. Graves are scattered about either in the meadow or the forest, no more assuming than small mounds of dirt with stones resting upon them. Everything is elegantly simple, creating a sense of peacefulness fitting of a cemetery.
As Kathryn, Chantel, Andrew and I scattered rose petals on Joe’s grave, I felt connected to him. His presence was real, enhanced by the purity of the surroundings. We spoke to him, telling him that we miss him. I rested my hand on his stone, feeling gratefulness well up in my heart for having known Joe in life. And as we walked away, I knew that I would be back to visit often, to share in the joy of Joe’s company and in the beauty of a perfect resting place.