A cemetery might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of volunteer opportunities, but over the last two years, more than fifty people have joined Lakewood’s Welcome Team, and three others have served as volunteer tour guides. Each dedicated volunteer brings a unique purpose and interest to Lakewood. Here are a few of their stories.
“My husband is interred in Lakewood’s Garden Mausoleum, and my in-laws are buried in the garden across from the Memorial Chapel. When I visit my husband’s niche in the mausoleum, I meet other people who come frequently to visit their loved ones—some of them daily. We introduce ourselves and we refer to our loved ones as being ‘neighbors’ and they often say they will visit my husband, too, when they come to visit their family member. That brings me comfort and the feeling that we all share in grief and loss.
When I heard about Lakewood’s Welcome Team, I signed up right away. I have volunteered at Music in the Chapel concerts, handed out flowers on Father’s Day, assisted at the Fall Colors Celebration, made lanterns for the Lantern Lighting Celebration and helped gather materials for the Midsummer Memory Mandala event.
I enjoy visiting with others at Lakewood events. Because so many of us have a direct connection to someone who is buried at Lakewood, it creates camaraderie. Getting to know others makes me appreciate that everyone has a story, and that it’s important to remember these narratives and pass them on to the next generation.
I’m looking forward to attending many upcoming events, including the Spring Equinox Tea Ceremony, which happens to mark ten years to the day of my husband’s passing. It will be comforting to be in the community of others.”
“For many years, I attended Lakewood events, including Sound Meditations and Music in the Chapel concerts, both held in the Memorial Chapel. I’ve also taken trolley tours and attended Lakewood’s Midsummer Memory Mandala workshops and Fall Colors Celebrations. Additionally, I love to walk at Lakewood. Even before I became a volunteer, I would often tell people what a special place Lakewood is and how fortunate we are to have it here in Minneapolis. I like how Lakewood actively engages with the community. I was looking at Lakewood’s events calendar on the website, when I saw information about the docent program. I signed up immediately. Volunteering felt like that perfect way to contribute to a place I already loved.
Leading my first walking tour was very memorable for me. Lots of my friends attended and I felt so supported and encouraged. The evening was beautiful, and the tour went really well!
Since volunteering at Lakewood, I’ve become more aware of all the different ways loved ones can be memorialized. It’s been fascinating to learn about the different options at Lakewood. All of them are beautiful.”
“After a decade away, I moved back to Minneapolis and wanted to rediscover some parts of the city. I took a Lakewood trolley tour and enjoyed learning about Lakewood and its history so much that I joined the Lakewood Welcome Team.
Volunteering at the Lantern Lighting Celebration last fall was one of the most moving experiences I have had. I sat on the bank of Jo Pond and helped release the lanterns. I will always remember feeling the breeze and seeing the last sliver of sunset at the start of the ceremony; hearing the bagpipes and the spoken names of those being remembered; and the feeling of being in the company of so many people experiencing loss and memories together, defying the feeling of isolation that grief can sometimes cause.
At the Lantern Lighting Celebration and again when I volunteered assisting with ribbons at Lakewood’s Living Memory Tree, many visitors were surprised to learn that making a lantern and tying a ribbon to the Memory Tree was for everyone, not only those who have loved ones at Lakewood. The question came up more than I anticipated, and every time someone learned that they could honor a lost loved one, you could sense their gratitude that Lakewood—its expansive grounds and beautiful monuments—was a place where anyone could be memorialized.
As an epidemiologist, it’s not unusual for me to think about mortality, but I generally treat it as an outcome that can be tallied and, ideally, delayed. Volunteering at Lakewood has been a special opportunity for me to balance that statistical perspective with something more human and sincere: learning names and stories of those who have died, meeting families who are remembering those they’ve lost, and admiring the symbolism, artistry and customs involved in commemorating lives.”
Monica Park and Anne Rumsey
Monica: “My introduction to Lakewood began when I joined my Aunt Anne as we visited her beloved wife Bridget, who is interred in Lakewood’s Garden Mausoleum. As a student of grief and death and dying—I am training as a Death Doula and End-of-Life Concierge—I’m naturally drawn to memorialization and cemeteries. Lakewood is a cultural gem, so historically rich. I wanted to learn more and be in community with other people moved by the place. Also, it’s just a beautiful environment to be in.”
Anne: “Because of our parallel journeys, Monica and I thought volunteering together would be a wonderful opportunity to honor and recognize death and the life that surrounds it.”
Monica: “My aunt and I are very close. I felt privileged that I was able to be a witness to her grief after losing Bridget, the love of her life. Bridget’s niche in the Garden Mausoleum is perfectly Bridget—chic, beautiful, elegant and elevated. My aunt and I have spent a lot of time there together—crying, walking and being present.”
Anne: “While volunteering, I’ve enjoyed meeting folks in the community—staff, artists, naturalists—who share with the community the richness of what Lakewood has to offer. Monica and I both love the Byzantine Memorial Chapel, with its rich spiritual world history. We’re looking forward to attending and volunteering at events hosted in that space.”
Monica: “At Lakewood’s Fall Colors events, Anne was mesmerized by the naturescape paintings of a visiting artist. She encouraged so many people to participate in the art activity; she was the most enthusiastic volunteer at the event. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by all of Lakewood’s history and so many incredible fun facts to learn, but like most good things, there is no rush and the unfolding of all the layers of richness is what I look forward to most.”
Anne: “I’m especially drawn to Lakewood’s annual Lantern Lighting Celebration, a beautiful communal experience. It truly celebrates the spirit of our loved ones who have passed while also encouraging the presence of mind to continue to live fully. My perspective on death, dying, and memorialization has changed since Bridget’s death. The process of coming to terms with her death and choosing a way to honor her exposed me to the incredible palette of support that Lakewood offers. Volunteering with my niece and spending time together at a place we both appreciate is special.”
Monica: “I could say so much about my perspective on death, dying, and memorialization, but in short, being at Lakewood with like-minded people is just more evidence that embracing death and our grief can be a beautiful experience despite the pain. There is comfort and community in physical spaces that remind us of the inevitable, while at the same time helping us stay connected to everything and everyone beyond the physical world. I find it very grounding.”
If you would like to share your love of Lakewood, consider becoming a Lakewood volunteer. Our annual volunteer Welcome Team training is Sunday, March 24. Tour guide training begins in late February. Learn more at lakewoodcemetery.org/contact/volunteer