David Ponoroff: Cemetery Worker or Budding Philosopher?
By Tori Rubloff
Gravedigging: one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a sunny Florida afternoon — that is, if you are David Ponoroff.
Raised in Tampa, Ponoroff, 22, works full time as the assistant director of Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, which contains 93 acres of conserved and protected land, and yes, buried remains. A jack of all graveyard trades, he gives tours of the grounds, helps grieving families plan burials, leads gravediggings and lowers the deceased into the ground.
After graduating in the spring of 2017 from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and sustainability studies, even he is entertained by where life brought him. “If you had told me years ago that I’d work in a cemetery one day, I would’ve laughed you out of the room,” he said.
But to Ponoroff, working in a cemetery is much more than a laughing matter. He finds his work to be immensely enlightening and philosophical. “It connects me to the human experience. No matter who you are, death is unifying across religious identity, political identity, social identity, whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, Hispanic, Asian…. It connects all of us.”
He finds that most people shoo away thoughts of death and are uncomfortable with it. But in order for people to be living more fulfilling lives, he believes they should be doing the exact opposite. “When you have an end to something, it provides meaning to everything before it. By treating death more positively as another aspect of life that’s inescapable, we end up happier,” he said.
He has even witnessed this change of heart in his own life. “I’ve learned not to take life for granted. I’ve even become more outgoing and positive and willing to do things I may not have otherwise have done.”
Perhaps we should all be spending more time in cemeteries.