Why are they all facing east?


Chas an Lou are inquisitive. They keep wanting to stop at every cemetery we pass.

Chas: “Stop! I want to look. What is this place? Why are all those stones there, and why are they all facing the same way? East.”

I tell them “It is a cemetery, a place where we place the dead to rest”. But they don’t understand.

Lou: “I rest in the living room leaning against the wall beneath your topographical map of the area. Why can’t they do that?”

I try to explain that people aren’t like them. “When you get old, you can be fixed, refitted with new parts, and made to look, and ride, like new. People aren’t like that. They get tired, run down, and eventually quit working. We try to fix them but a time comes when they are done. And when that happens, we bury them in a cemetery.”

Chas: “That’s terrible. Are you going to bury me when I get too old to ride?”

I tell them they don’t have to worry. As long as they have someone that cares about them, they never have to stop rolling. I tell them that I will make certain I leave them with someone that will continue to care for them the same way I do. They don’t understand.

Chas: “What? We won’t die but you will? Then what will Lou and I do?”

I tell them it is a Christian tradition. East is where the sun rises, and where Christ will reappear again. The second coming. The dead are placed on their backs, feet facing the rising sun, and the second coming.

They still don’t get it. They are only more confused.

Chas: “Christian? Christ? Second coming? What are you talking about? What does this have to do with cycling?”

They don’t understand the concept of a religion. Or, why people fight because they have different religious beliefs. They only care about the riding we do.

Chas: “Hey! If Lou and I are not going to die, that means we will never be buried. But what is going to happen to you? Are you going to die?”

I tell the boys one day I will be gone. That they will have to put me to rest. Face me east, and mark the spot.

Chas: “I have a good idea. Instead of marking you with a stone, Lou and I will take turns resting on you. That way you’ll never forget us.”

Lou: ” Yah! We’ll make sure to always point east just in case there is a second coming. We wouldn’t want you to miss it. But what difference would it make anyway. You’re dead. That’s permanent. Right?”

Chas: “I’d rather face west. I like the sunsets. That’s the time we enjoyed riding the best.”

Lou: “Yah! Me too. West it is.”

I tell them I don’t want to be buried. I want to be cremated. Burned.

Chas: “Yikes!!! That’s worse! Then what?”

And then have my ashes scattered in a place I have enjoyed with my kids over the years; a place I have cycled with them.

Lou: “That sounds better. You won’t be stuck in the ground. You will be blowing in the wind like you were cycling with Chas and me.”

Chas: “I see. Your marker is a favourite place you have shared with your kids and us. A place we can visit anytime. I like that better too.”

Lou: “Maybe your kids can take care of us then we can visit together.”

10 thoughts on “Why are they all facing east?

  1. After a bit of thought I think I’ll hedge my bets, take the example of the pre-Christian Vikings, Ancient Egyptians, pagan Anglo-Saxons, et al, and get buried with all three of my bikes and a great pile of grave goods to include, coffee and cake, cycling clothing, spare parts, bike oil, a bike stand, and a full toolkit. My local bike mechanics will no doubt be pleased to hear that in line with modern sensibilities I won’t be insisting that they are sacrificed to accompany me into the afterlife!

  2. Well you got me wondering about what inspired this post.
    Loved the contrasting comparison and the “humans can’t be fixed” idea. It is sad but it is true.
    Also, and I don’t know how you did this, you took a dark theme and peppered it with some humour. I liked it. I’m liking these conversation with Chas and Lou! At times, they sound like your subconscious, other times, like two innocent, naive little boys.

    • I’m glad you enjoy the banter.

      I frequently cycle past the cemetery pictured above, and sometimes walk through it examining the names on the stones. Many are familiar. People that first settled in here and whose families still live in the area. It’s a particularly picturesque setting nestled amongst towering pine trees. It’s a peaceful, contemplative spot. Sometimes I’ll sit on the grass, facing east, wondering what these people might be thinking.

      I wouldn’t read too much into Chas and Lou. I introduced them to illustrate how close we cyclists become to our rides. They become more than a means of transport or a sport accessory. They become part of us in a way.

      Chas and Lou are a vehicle to introduce a pinch of humour. I never thought of them as representing my unconscious, but there may be some truth to that. They can say things perhaps I can’t, and help me explore ideas I might not otherwise be able to articulate.

  3. Chas and Lou are deep thinkers! I love it!
    I believe that Jesus will come again, but I don’t care how I am buried when I die, I care about how I live while I am alive 🙂

    • Don’t be embarrassed. I didn’t know either until a few years ago when I visited the very same cemetery with a friend, an architect, who knew considerable detail about the ritual. Even Christian churches a built facing east.

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