Wednesday, March 8, 2017

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 320: Visit Harper Lee’s grave

Harper Lee's grave in Monroeville, Ala.
At the time of her death in 2016, Harper Lee was probably the world’s most famous living writer. Thanks to her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1960 novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she was known worldwide and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 for her contributions to literature. Sadly, she passed away on Feb. 19, 2016, less than a year after publishing her second novel, the controversial “Go Set a Watchman.”

I grew up in Monroe County, Ala., which also happened to be the birthplace and home of Harper Lee, but I can’t honestly say that I ever met her. I saw her tons of time, but I never had one of those face-to-face, shake-your-hand kind of meetings with her. For several years, I had “Meet Harper Lee” on my “bucket list,” but it never came to pass before she died last year.

Late last year, when I updated my “bucket list,” I decided to put a visit to Lee’s grave on the list. I’ve always been a big fan of her books, and I figured this would be a good way to pay homage to one of America’s greatest writers. Some may think this is morbid, but I think it’s a respectful way to mark the passing of arguably the most famous person to ever call Monroe County home.

Two Sundays ago, Feb. 19, I was reviewing my “Today in History” notes and was reminded that Harper Lee had been dead for one year. At that moment I resolved to visit her gravesite the next time I was in Monroeville, which I knew would probably be the following Friday. When Friday morning, Feb. 24, rolled around, I found myself in Monroeville and took a few minutes to visit her grave for the first time.

The first challenge was to actually find her grave in the large cemetery across from the Baptist Church in Monroeville. This cemetery contains hundreds of graves spread out over a wide area, but luck was on my side. I happened to turn into the drive closest to her grave site and spotted it after a few minutes because I could see the surname “LEE” on a large grave marker at her family plot.

I parked nearby and noticed her grave almost immediately. Surprisingly, the grass hadn’t completely grown over her grave despite a year haven’t passed since her burial. If you happened to ride by, you’d never know that one of the most famous writers in American history was buried there.

The most remarkable thing about Lee’s grave was the footstone, which, as you would expect, carried her full name, date of birth and date of death. There were also a few different varieties of flowers, dozens of pennies and some plastic footballs. There was also a plastic bag that contained a notebook and pencil. This had been heavily damaged by water, so I didn’t actually open it up, but I suspect it was where visitors could sign-in, saying they had been there.

In the end, how many of you have ever visited Harper Lee’s grave? Did you leave anything behind? What other famous graves would recommend checking out? Let us know in the comments section below.

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