Cluster 5 – Skogskyrkogården

As life, death, and its intersections recurred in our discussions, we went to visit Skogskyrkogården. 

Designed by architects Erik Gunna Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, this cemetery adapted its layout to the landscape rather than carving out the forest to suit the needs of a graveyard. 

We wandered among the graves, with pine trees stretching over us like a cathedral nave and a strong sense that this was no ordinary resting place: it is a site for deep mourning, but it is also imbued with the peace and joy found in fondly remembering the dead. 

We crept behind the crematorium, watching smoke gently rising out of its chimneys, and we sat on benches specially designed to make mourners feel less alone in their grief. Small things reminded us of the presence of the carers of the cemetery: a coat hanging near a cremation oven, a truck full of freshly cut grass – proof of the living coexisting with and caring for the dead. 

We shared stories of different burial rituals, from Iran to Romania, and wondered whether true death occurs when you are forgotten. It seemed that the dead were still with us; they could be lying underground and gossiping together, having a party, sharing stories about a rude group of youths who criticised their gravestone ornaments. It felt good to laugh, blurring the boundaries between grief and celebration, life and death. 

10 APRIL 2021