Networking in a cemetery

Almost everyone has been to cocktail receptions and networking events.

Given my interest in visiting cemeteries, it just occurred to me to contemplate networking with the dead. There is no exchange of business cards, but there can be an exchange nonetheless. A thoughtful walk through a cemetery has sometimes been as helpful as any career advice.

Networking with the dead, it would seem, demands getting out of your comfort zone, going over to the tombs with the most personality, but also seeking out the ones that are neglected or discreet. It involves being curious and interested. It involves not being intimidated to talk to people who are older than you, wiser than you.

Sometimes, on special occasions, I have visited cemeteries on guided tours which means that I have had someone else making introductions for me to the dead.

This has been most helpful for breaking the ice, especially when I do not know whether or not we have very much in common.

A few years ago, during this time of year, I was visiting a cemetery in Zakopane, Poland with a phenomenal guide.

The cemetery was dynamic; it was impossible to meet everyone and so we focused on making the acquaintance of a few of the protagonists.

It was really as though we could encounter graves with personalities there, and our guide’s stories added to the adornment of the tombs.

One of the most memorable graves I saw was that of Kornel Makuszyński, a well-loved Polish children’s author who died in 1953.

Atop the grave, there is a small wooden house. It looks like a birdhouse and in the place for a bird, there sits a wooden figure of the contemplative Christ. Dangling from the wooden house and on the stone ledge, there are many colourful objects – buttons, hair accessories, ribbons, toys, badges, light sticks, pet rocks, a small teddy bear, and some bracelets.

If someone were to ask, “What did you do, Mr. Makuszyński?” it is as though his grave replies, “I gave you stories.”

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