Designed in the mid 19th century, Forest Hills Cemetery is not just a burial ground but a place of rest, contemplation, and beauty for the living, with splendid monuments, opulent crypts, sumptuous landscaping, and a little lake. “It’s the greatest outdoor sculpture museum in the country,” boasted Forest Hills Education trustee Dick Smith on July 19, at the cemetery’s ninth annual Lantern Festival.
Over the past decade, the Forest Hills Education Trust has promoted life-affirming events like the Lantern Festival, a Buddhist-inspired, Asian-themed night that transcends its regional origins. At an early wine-and-cheese-nibbles VIP party attended by 150 donors and patrons, two dancers swayed to Balinese music and people discussed the afterlife and tranquility. Later, at the main public event, Master Tsuji’s Samurai Taiko Drummers (and martial-arts group) played to a crowd of 5000. Then, people attempted to float candle-lit and personally inscribed lanterns across Lake Hibiscus, though the feeble breeze left many vessels hugging the shoreline. At the end, a bagpipe outfit played “Amazing Grace.”
People of all stripes spent $10 on a lantern (drawn by a Japanese calligrapher) that they then inscribed to their departed loved ones and placed upon the lake. “It’s a peacefulness, a letting-go,” said Heather Colmore of Charlestown. “The cycle of life includes death. It’s an acknowledgment we’re all connected.”
Lidney Motch, a Jamaica Plain investment manager, said, “I hope for peace and comfort. I think our culture needs more spirituality and events like this.” Mattapan teacher Annie Bispham’s husband died in 2004 and is buried at Forest Hills. “I feel at peace when I’m here,” she said. “This helps the healing process.”
Want your dirt nap to take place here? Plots start at $3750, and you can spend up to $1 million, according to George Milley, the president and CEO of Forest Hills Cemetery. You could be parked in worse turf. You’re surrounded by famous folks — William Lloyd Garrison, Eugene O’Neill, e.e. cummings, and Anne Sexton, to name a few — and you (or your ancestors) are assured of eternally great landscaping.