I Visited Willa Cather’s Grave

One day while reading a short bio of Willa Cather I stumbled upon the fact that she’s buried in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, only an hour and a half from where I live.

As you can imagine, I was ecstatic.

I was shocked when I learned she’s buried in NH because I knew she was born in Virginia and raised in Nebraska. Though she died in Manhattan, she asked to be buried in Jeffrey because apparently it was where she wrote a lot of her novels. She’s buried there with Edith Lewis, the woman she lived with for decades.

The sign on the Meeting House in Jaffrey, NH.

Recently my mom and I made the trek to Jaffrey to see the grave in person. She’s buried in the Old Burial Ground behind the Meeting House, which is a really beautiful old building in and of itself. When we pulled into the dirt parking lot on that rainy Friday morning we weren’t quite sure where we were headed, but fortunately we easily found her grave site because it’s in a corner near a stone wall (which we had to hop). The burial ground itself was actually kind of beautiful, even though that might sound weird. There were so many old, weathered headstones in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Part of me wanted to just stroll through it row by row and take it all in, but the rain encouraged us to be quick to avoid getting completely soaked. I was almost glad it was raining because it made the day feel cozy, peaceful, and even sort of eerie.

When we finally arrived at her headstone I couldn’t help but gasp. There she was. There’s a great quote from My Ántonia on Cather’s headstone, which made me so happy because I love that book immensely. There were also a bunch of rocks and pennies on her grave, most likely from others who admire her work as well.

I was definitely the happiest person in this burial graveyard (and the only person besides my mom).

Standing in front of Willa Cather’s grave was surreal. Too often it can feel as though authors are these untouchable, legendary figures who live on forever through the pages of their work. While visiting a grave like this it’s impossible to not feel a wave of realization wash over you: this woman was human, with hopes and dreams and flaws and desires just like the rest of us. Though I sometimes like to believe that the books I love hold a sort of elevated notion of truth and meaning that emanates from their spines, it’s important to remember that these texts were written by people just like us. Writers exist beyond their work, which is easy to forget when you’re engrossed in their stories and captivated by their words. Visiting Cather’s grave made everything feel much more real, tangible, and within reach.

Needless to say, I want to read everything that Willa Cather has ever written now, even more so than I did before. I’m so happy I had the opportunity to visit such an interesting piece of literary history— it’s definitely a place I would visit again in the future!

Have you ever visited the grave sites of your favorite authors? (Also, how weird is that question out of context?!) Do you have a favorite novel or short story by Willa Cather? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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25 responses to “I Visited Willa Cather’s Grave”

  1. I haven’t read anything by Willa Carter yet. Nor have I visited the graves of my favourite authors. That’s because they are still alive haha. I have visited the grave of Oscar Wilde, but I haven’t read anything by him. Oops

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so cool that you visited Oscar Wilde’s grave!! Where is his located?

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  2. I visited Hemingway’s grave up in Idaho once. It’s not a habit of mine to lounge amongst the dead, but Hemingway’s writing–or at least his short stories–have always enrichened my life. For me, he’s up there with J. S. Bach. “Big Two-Hearted River” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” are transcendent works of art.

    I love Willa Cather’s writing as well, and need to re-read it all, as it’s been many years. You were lucky to get to visit her. Nothing “weird” about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Visiting Hemingway’s grave is definitely on my bucket list as well. Visiting these sites is such a surreal experience.

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  3. I haven’t read anything by her yet!! I have visited the grave of Thomas Hardy though (or more specifically where his heart is buried).

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    1. Whoa– you visited Thomas Hardy’s HEART?!?! Where is that???

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hehe well his wife believed he would want his heart buried in Dorset, while his ashes are interred in Poet’s Corner (Westminster Abbey). I’ve been to the grave in Dorset, but funnily enough not to Poet’s corner to “see” the rest of him 😉

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    2. Ah, Hardy! One of my favorites–I especially favor his “Jude the Obscure.” A moving book, funny in parts despite being overall rather grim.

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      1. Oh yes, me too- Jude is definitely my favourite, one of the most striking books I’ve ever read

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  4. That’s so cool!! I had no idea she was buried there either, and I’m originally from New Hampshire!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know either until very recently! Also, it’s nice to meet another New Hampshirite 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. daniellethamasa Avatar
    daniellethamasa

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read some short stories by Willa Cather (my degree in Literature makes me think she probably had some stories in one of my literature anthologies), but I can’t immediately bring to mind any of them.

    Anyway, this is an awesome post, and I’m sure it was quite an awe-inspiring trip for you. That’s pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve been to any author graves yet, but perhaps someday I’ll be able to visit a few.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You definitely should visit a grave if you get the chance– it’s such a surreal experience!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. daniellethamasa Avatar
        daniellethamasa

        I’ve been to several presidential tombs and those are always interesting.

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  6. I haven’t read any Willa Cather, although my friend had to for school and was not a fan. But maybe I’ll try some day! I’ve never been to any author’s graves, I don’t think, but you’re so right about it kind of helping you to realise that they’re not better humans than the rest of us 🙂

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    1. Her books aren’t for everyone, but I think they’re so beautiful! ❤ I hope you enjoy them if you decide to read them!

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  7. How exciting for you. I absolutely want to go there some time, but it takes slightly longer to get there from Colorado. If you ever make it to Nebraska, please visit Red Cloud. I am taking the liberty of attaching a link to one of my blog posts about a visit there. Thank you.
    https://tanjabrittonwriter.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/a-visit-to-catherland/

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  8. Cemeteries are generally beautiful because they’re so parklike. Of course, I’m a psychopath so don’t trust my word on it.
    I haven’t read Cather yet (give me time!) but I do want to visit other authors graves, like Ray Bradbury’s Tolkien’s…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haha no I totally agree! There’s a strange beauty about cemeteries. Visiting the graves of Ray Bradbury and Tolkien would be amazing!

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  9. […] Holly Visits Willa Cather’s Grave Call me creepy but I love graves. I love Hitlers’ scattered ashes. I love…stopping now. Seriously, visiting such a historic site would be an amazing experience, as long as you gave me time to read her books. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. […] It happened, people: I finally visited Willa Cather’s grave!! This is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I learned a few months ago that it’s located a little over an hour away from where I live. Willa Cather is one of my favorite authors, so standing at the foot of her grave was absolutely surreal. I went on a rather dreary day, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying every second of it. You can read more about my adventures in this graveyard here.  […]

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  11. […] beautiful and moving and just so thought-provoking. Willa Cather is also such an interesting writer (if you’d like, you can check out the post I wrote about visiting her grave a few years ago.) I absolutely recommend this if you’re in the mood to read about growing up, transitioning […]

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  12. What a beautiful grave she has. I’m glad she and Edith were buried together.

    Liked by 1 person

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