Life Lessons in Pere Lachaise Cemetery (New Essay Published!)

Well the new year is starting off well. I’m thrilled to share my first publication of 2012 – and a fitting new year’s essay it is. Read on to find out why.

For the past three and a half years, I’ve lived a ten-minute walk from Père Lachaise, the famed Parisian cemetery that’s home to many historic luminaries – everyone from Abelard to Chopin, Edith Piaf to Marcel Proust.

In recent weeks, talk has centered on writer Oscar Wilde; his tomb now stands encircled by thick glass, a barrier aimed to protect the stone from endless admirers’ kisses. (Of course people have already started leaving their lipstick prints on the Plexiglas instead).

Despite my close proximity to Père Lachaise, picking up the Parisian affection for the place didn’t come naturally. Not only tourists in search of Jim Morrison’s grave frequent Père Lachaise, you see. Parisians adore their largest cemetery and a stroll along its cobblestone alleys is as popular a local pastime as any.

It took me some time to understand the appeal. Tracking down rock stars’ headstones seemed less bizarre than having dates amongst the dead.

Then one day….

Yes! A cliffhanger! To read the rest of the essay, head on over to Numero Cinq.



16 Responses to “Life Lessons in Pere Lachaise Cemetery (New Essay Published!)”

  1. 1 Aurelia January 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    J’adore a cliffhanger–for about 2.5 seconds! Off to read the rest. Merci!


  2. 3 Alaster January 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Sion,
    This was a joy to read. Beautiful.


  3. 5 Elena Azzoni January 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    LOVE THIS. Thank you so much for inspiring me on this gray/sunny/gray Paris day. Fave quotes:

    The women proceeded to have a very French conversation – a list of complaints despite the beautiful day. (AHAHA!)

    It’s always amazed me how mourning and celebration mingle. How often, they can be one and the same. Grief and joy, sadness and wonder; we contain such riches inside us at all times.

    The cold stones seem to whisper, warm possibilities of flesh and blood: Don’t be afraid of life. Live it.

    Beautiful piece. So happy to know you now…


  4. 7 Jennifer Flueckiger January 5, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    This is inspiring reading for the New Year. I would have the ditto what Elena said above, I really liked the same bits and am delighted to know you too. The account of George Whitman’s funeral was great also. My hope is that his legacy, Shakespeare & Co, will continue to inspire and I have every reason to believe it will.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • 8 paris (im)perfect January 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm

      Thanks so much, Jennifer. I’m glad you found it inspiring. It was interesting to me to discover that the cemetery in my backyard was so inspiring, too. Also, I think Shakespeare & Co is in good hands with his daughter, Sylvia. May the legacy continue.


  5. 9 Franck January 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Amazingly, le Père Lachaise was the very fisrt place I visited with my grand-mother. I was four or five. Years after years, it remained my safety valve(??) “soupape de sécurité”. Noises become sounds, the sun becomes a private lamp, mist is like a scarf around the trees and after a five minute-sitting, your mind is deaf. You are floating. Forgotten stuff did not pass the gate, ghosts and spirits didn’t like futile grief. You captured well this slow tempo atmosphere. You are one of us now. Amused by the Japanese herds walking fast and missing almost everything and disturbed by these American or Chinese packs talking loud in the middle of “stillnessland”. We just have to check if you grumble well enough for being eligible “queen of darkness”.
    Saigneur Franc. (Tapper frank)


  6. 11 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) January 6, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Such a great post, Sion, on a place I treasure a lot in this city, too. I’m so glad you have come to love PL. I really appreciated all you wrote about, including recent details such as the Plexiglas 😉 around Oscar to the recent memorial/interment for George Whitman. If I had not been out of town at the time, I would have loved to have been there. I was in spirit, and there were a lot of proxies for me there, including yourself. I’ll make a pilgrimage there to pay my respects soon. 🙂

    Thank you, as always, for being open and honest in your writing, and sharing from your heart what you experience and feel.



  7. 13 Lisa January 7, 2012 at 5:27 am

    I spent a semester in Paris in college, and like you, never found the idea of visiting a cemetery, whether for tourism or pleasure, to be appealing. Your essay has changed my mind, and Pere Lechaise is at the top of my list for the next time I go! (Hoping to move there this year.) You have a way with words.


  8. 14 writingfeemail January 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I love Pere Lachaise, though I wasn’t aware of the Wilde scandal. The tomb of Jim Morrison has taken a lot of abuse over the years, that’s for sure.


  9. 15 Adrineh January 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Lovely piece, Sion! Perhaps you’ll like Heddy Honingmann’s film Forever (one of my favorite films, but difficult to get a hold of!): Your essay reminded me of her film (and Père Lachaise, as well) — peaceful yet at the same time powerful and moving.


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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