I grew up across from a cemetery. Mom and Dad bought the house in 1975 because we wanted to live in the country. My sister and I wanted a horse and everybody wanted more room to roam. We went from a century house surrounded by neighbors on narrow tree lined streets to a much newer three bedroom ranch on three acres. Our view to the South was a tree lined bank that led to a swamp, a woods and a river. The view to the North was all cornfield and across the street, Monroe Cemetery. I cannot tell you how many times I heard that tired old joke, ” Well, at least the neighbors are quiet.”
Living across from a cemetery is wonderful. It’s a quiet place to think; a good place to walk or run if you’re into fitness. It’s a place full of stories if you slow down and read all the words on the stones. Think about what they mean. The names and dates. Beloved wife. Beloved mother. Gone but not forgotten. These words tell poignant tales of people’s lives. Use your imagination and you can piece them together.
I loved my cemetery because, when I walked there, I knew I wasn’t alone. All those people that had been buried under the ground were still there. I could talk to them and maybe, on some ethereal level, they could hear me. They were very good listeners. I felt they were compassionate and understanding of my plight. After all, they had gone through their lives, enduring struggles, suffering pain, being tested, searching for their own identities, perhaps even fighting injustice. They found the strength to keep going. They would encourage me to do the same, if they could speak. I was sure of it. I could tell them everything I was struggling with, things I could never tell my parents or even my friends.
I looked forward to their silent company. I felt accepted among them. I believed that being on the other side gave one a much greater perspective of earthly life. These were the kind of friends I needed. Someone who could see beyond the surface. I grew up and moved away, but I still love cemeteries and visit them at every opportunity.
Once a year at the end of May, people flock to the cemeteries to spruce up the graves of their ancestors. They have parades and ceremonies of remembrance. This is the traditional time to honor all the veterans who have died in service. But I like to honor everyone in the cemetery, veteran or not, because they deserve to be remembered. One hundred years from now, no one will know your name unless it is written on a stone. Even your descendants will die and no one will remember your face or voice, your favorite song or flower. But maybe a downhearted teenager will be wandering through your cemetery and brush her fingers across the carved letters of your name and say it out loud. Beloved wife. Beloved mother. A piece of you will live again.