Monday, May 28, 2018
As a child, I remember going with my grandmother to the cemetery to "decorate the graves" as she called it. It was just something you did for the dead - cleaned off the stones, trimmed back the grass around "their patch," and lay fresh flowers on their graves. Although I was young and not much help, Grandma took me and let me play among the graves as she went about her work.
This may be where my interest in cemeteries began. I remember walking along the graves and being fascinated with the names: Aloysius, Edwina, Victoria, Nathanial. They all sounded charming yet old fashioned. As I figured out the ages of death from those stones, I wondered about the lives of the people with whose names. Had they married? Did they have children? Had they been happy? Had they had a good life? And then there were the epitaphs: Dear Brother, Remembered Aunt, Beloved Wife, and Our Baby – those were the stones that always gave me pause. It was the realization that, yes, children just like me could die.
My grandmother told me stories about the family members she tended. “This was your great-great grandmother, this was my brother, this was your grandpa’s dad.” All these years later, I wish I had paid more attention to these family reminisces. If only I'd known how important they'd become ...
Today, the cemetery still holds sway over me. There is still that sense of discovery and surprise as I enter hallowed ground, wondering just what I’ll find beyond that fence, those gates, up the lane.
While the day will always make me nostalgic for those mornings with Grandma, Memorial Day also seems to be the perfect time to start the search, or recommit to discovering your family history. Their stories are out there, all we have to do is begin our search, and what could be nicer on a warm spring day than a stroll through the cemetery.