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franconiangirl

Belgium Cemetery "of the insane" Aug. '17

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It´s a special kind of silence that´s being felt all over that place. It´s peaceful. Heather´s growing like a carpet and right between all the weathered stone crosses. Once made out of plain stone, they now mark the human remains of former patients of the nearby psychiatric hospital, who deceased between the years 1921 - 1981. As the cemetery was opened in '21 the hospital was still named "Rijkskrankzinnigengesticht"  ("public mental hospital") - a customary term at that time. Around 1750 - exclusively male - patients were buried here. As mentioned above, the last one in 1981.

The graves itselves are designed pretty simple. The individual stone cross only contains a metal plate with the name as well as the date of birth and death of the patient in respective. You can´t help it but ask yourself what kind of lives they might had had. It was not uncommon that patients had to spend a significant part of their lives in such institutions, not to say even their whole lives. One thing is certain at last. They all had to spend the rest of their lives within an institution, which excluded them from society.

The graveyard itself is located right in the middle of the woods. Thanks to the sunny weather of a late summer´s day, it helped to find the atmosphere more peaceful than anything else. The sun was shining and created an immense heat between the stone crosses and the heather growing all over the place, just helped to add friendliness to the whole scenery. I´m sure a cold, misty November´s day would change the whole atmosphere completely. Yet, the friendly weather that day couldn´t delude me from that gloomy mood arising deep down. All those seemingly perfect stone crosses in a row, those bleached out plastic flowers on some of the graves and further, partly indefinable objects being found on the site - remnants of an unique culture of memory - made me feel quite uneasy. 

Shortly before leaving the grounds, I spotted a pretty new-looking plushie, a mouse. Sitting right on one of the crosses, already with cobwebs on its head. It really appeared out of place. My gaze settled on the fence around the burial site. Right in the middle of the woods, I could see a woman standing on the other side of the fence. Rooted at the spot and gazing at me as well. Or maybe she wasn´t even looking at me, but the whole scenery itself. I started to feel a bit uneasy, as I feared she wouldn´t like me to be right in the middle of that burial site. Yet, when I started to approach her, I was able to recognise her as a patient of the still existing psychiatric hospital nearby. Apparently, she was on an excursion through the woods with other patients, but had left the group for a short time. I really asked myself, what her thoughts were. I´ll never know. Coming nearer, she disappeared in the thicket and I left the cemetery grounds. 

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Edited by franconiangirl
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