Wandering Among the Dead… and Wondering

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The Black Angel

I’m one of those strange people who enjoy visiting graveyards.  No, I’m not a zombie or a mad scientist in search of bodies to make my next Frankenstein.  I actually enjoy wandering among tombstones – especially in the really old cemeteries.  I read the names, the dates of birth and death – and sometimes a memorable saying or little quote.  I like to think about the lives they must have lived, the joys and sorrows they encountered – and I’m glad that although I never knew them – I can pay tribute to the fact that they were here and existed.

My favorite inscription on a grave reads “As you are now, I once was.  As I am now, you soon will be.” I first read this inscription on a grave of a 14-year-old girl who died in the late 1800’s of cholera.  She is buried in a very small cemetery on top of Kebler Pass in Colorado – so small and so old, that her grave is the only one that is still identifiable.  It is such a powerful statement – and important to remember as we go through life.  It is important to remember those who have gone before us because they were once like us — they had their dreams and their disappointments just like us – and just like them, we are all equal in the end.  I thought this was a very unique inscription until I visited the cemeteries in Boston, Massachusetts.

If you are a graveyard nut, you must go to Boston.  There are graves right in Boston Common – and they are from the 1700s and earlier!  Imagine my surprise when I read my favorite inscription on a grave of a person buried in 1698!  A cemetery that is on the Freedom Trail has Paul Revere and the woman known as Mother Goose.  This cemetery is fun to visit because of all the important people in American History — but also because of the history and location of the graveyard itself.  It is locked in by three buildings and you can see office workers in the lower windows which look out over the graves.  Walking through the graveyard is an experience because none of the gravestones are actually where the graves are probably located.  Apparently, with the invention of the lawnmower, a caretaker thought it would be easier to line the gravestones up to cut the grass!  This is just one of many wonderful discoveries in Boston.

The history of any place is found in its graveyards.  Omaha has a great cemetery called Prospect Hill where all of the founders of Omaha are buried – as well as numerous individuals from the Spanish-American War.  There is also Holy Sepulchre which was originally divided into the Irish section and the Italian section.  The Italians buried their loved ones in crypts – but the Irish have great speeches written on their stones.  Then there are the ghost towns in the mountains of Colorado where the graveyards tell a story of hope and failure.

I love to visit graveyards.  I love to read the tombstones.  I love to think of the people who came before me and the kinds of lives they led.  Graveyards are our history and our link to the past.

Do you have a favorite graveyard or gravestone?  I would love to hear about it so I can put it on my list of places to visit!

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8 responses »

    • Patricia – I’m so sorry for your loss — but I do love your brother’s inscription – and will add it to my list of favorites! Thank you so much for sharing.

  1. I think cemeteries are so interesting. The first one we (hub and I) stopped at might have been in the Adirondacks, or perhaps Maine, when we first went there for a summer vacation (12 or so years ago). There are so many older graveyards in the NE. What I find fascinating is so many cemeteries are up on hills with very beautiful views. The one I remember visiting first (really just stopping along the road) had a view of the sea. Isn’t it fascinating that although rationally we know these people are dead and really have no use for a beautiful view, we often give them the best spots in our towns or cities? I always wonder why. I suppose it’s because people don’t really think their loved ones are dead, and they want to make sure they “rest in peace”, as we often say.

    I love old grave markers. Love the dates and the names and especially when families are buried together — the relationships. I’ve never read the saying: As you are now, I once was. As I am now, you soon will be. I’ll be on the lookout for it! How very true it is. On my blog I have a picture series from last year sometimes of a cemetery my husband and I stopped at — there are some lovely monuments and graves that I posted.

    • I never thought of that — but you are right — the old ones always seem to be in places with wonderful views! I agree it is probably because we want them to rest in a beautiful place – but also because we wanted to have some beautiful scenery to look at when we visited their graves! I will check out your pictures.

  2. One of the best cemeteries is not too far from you – in the Morningside area of Sioux City. It has a small pond where you can feed the ducks, walking paths, a nice view, and a real serenity to it. The natives talk about going there as children to feed the ducks, so it’s been this way for a while.

    I used to walk there nearly every night, as did many others. The gravestones are interesting – so many affections there. The saddest was a little girl who had been dead for a while (5 years at that time) but whose grave was brightly decorated all the time. I don’t think her family ever moved on from losing her.

    If it wasn’t so far from my daughter, I’d want to be laid to rest there when the times comes.

    Nancy
    http://dogear6.wordpress.com/

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