I like cemeteries. Call me morbid if you like, but there’s nothing like strolling past headstones and trying to decipher worn epitaphs to put things into perspective and remind me of my mortality. As I look at people’s names and the dates of their birth and death, I can’t help but wonder about what went in-between, and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. What happened to the two teenage brothers buried near their parents, who died within days of each other? One hundred and fifty years ago, who were the mourning people who gathered around when a woman was laid to rest below this stone vault?
On New Year’s Day I visited a cemetery that I had passed many times before as I walked to and from work. It’s located just beside one of the major highways through town, and unless commuters are particularly unobservant, I’m sure many of them see it every day. And although now it’s in a busy suburban area, it harks back to a simpler time, when the highway was just a dirt road, and the city was only a small town in the former Cherokee territory.
Although this cemetery has been kept up, mowed around, and so forth, time has certainly taken its toll. The oldest grave, from 1837, is missing the original stone, and many of the headstones lie broken and fallen despite being the last relic and often glorious monument to the person lying beneath.
One can read in the worn carvings the faith of these people. Many stones bear small rhymes and scripture, and some portray designs such as the hand and the finger pointing toward heaven–a reminder that the bones below no longer contain that spirit of life, which has long since fled to another place.
I’ll definitely plan to visit this cemetery again. In a sense, these people are my predecessors. They lived in the same place where I live now, and I can only imagine how different their world was from mine. Although worn and broken, I treasure such links between me and the past.