We’d bought a map in a little kiosk just off to the left of the iron-gated entrance to Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris . Alan, my ex-husband, and I had picked out the names of the honored dead whose monuments we wanted to find; Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer who died disgraced and penniless in Paris, now resting under a striking Art Nouveau monument; Abelard and Heloise, real-life star crossed lovers from the 12th century, separated in death by the walls of their adjoining tombs; Frederic Chopin, the composer of deeply romantic melodies.
The year was 1988 and we were living in an apartment in the 16th arrondisement of Paris, thanks to Alan’s employer.
We spent hours that day exploring. We discovered that this is an old place, a cramped place, a place of decayed crypts with broken windows, doors incapable of closing, vines growing on the interior walls, obscuring the messages of veneration carved at the orders of grieving families.
This is an autumnal place; the trees mostly bare, their leaves tumbling and crumbling under our feet on the cracked concrete of the narrow paths, the sky gray, threatening a cold Parisian rain; a good place to pay respects to the long-gone poets, politicians and playwrights, the lawyers, lovers and laborers interred at Père LaChaise.
We still had one more poet to whom we wanted to pay tribute. But his name wasn’t on the map.
The missing name was Jim Morrison, lead singer and founder of the rock group, The Doors.
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes again…….
Paris was indeed his end, for he was found dead at the age of 27, in a bathtub, in the same hotel where Oscar Wilde died. They died in the same hotel and are buried in the same cemetery.
We wound back over the same paths, headed off in new directions, cross and criss-crossed our routes, but found no grave for Jim Morrison. Finally, tired and hungry, we declared defeat and headed back for the exit.
Five feet, five mere feet from leaving the cemetery and never finding his grave, they appeared. They stepped right out of the time machine, the year 1968, and landed in 1988, right in front of us; a couple with long hair, dressed in leather pants, loose shirts and floppy hats. As they passed, I heard bells tinkling somewhere on their clothes and smelled that sweet scent of marijuana. I grabbed Alan, said, “Follow them! They’re on a mission. They’ll take us there,” spun both of us around and set off.
As we got closer to his grave, I understood why it wasn’t on the map. We started seeing arrows scrawled on graves with the name, “Jim Morrison,” written next to them. When we got to his grave, all those surrounding it were covered with graffiti. The guardians of Père LaChaise had tired of the desecration and hoped by making this spot hard to find, they’d minimize the damage.
They didn’t count on the degree of reverence with which this poet is held.
When we finally walked back out the iron gates of Père LaChaise, Alan said, “You did it again. I never would have thought a thing about those two, much less followed them. Thanks to you, we were able to say, “Rest in peace, Jim Morrison.”