In these times of such horror and uncertainty we need a place of quiet where we can forget for a few moments what is happening around us; a place where we can shut out the world and let our minds rest and our hearts heal. I am drawn to a rather unusual spot for quietness and resting. I am drawn to cemeteries. I know that sounds exactly the opposite of what I would need, but in truth I always find peace and quiet there. Whether it is a small family burial ground, a graveyard nestled beside a country church, or a historic cemetery with large obelisks, pillars, and mausoleums, they all draw me in. As soon as I enter the gate a sense of peace flows over me. As I breathe deeply I close my eyes, hear the birds in the trees, feel the breeze on my face, and just be. I begin to relax.
When I mention to people how I am drawn to cemeteries they look at me in horror and disbelief. They only think of cemeteries as a place of sorrow, but I don’t quite think that way. As I wander through a cemetery I see how much those who are buried there were loved. Someone loved and honored them enough to erect a monument of beauty whether it was a simple field stone or an elaborate marker. There will always be sadness in cemeteries, loved ones are deeply missed, but there is also beauty and history.
I especially love to wander the older church cemeteries. This small white church was a one-room schoolhouse where my great-grandmother attended school in the late 1800’s. The cemetery also has special meaning to me. It is where my father’s family is buried. I can look at the names and the dates on the markers and with a little research, I can figure out how they fit into the puzzle of our family history.
In older cemeteries some of the stones have been hand carved. Slowly the stone has been chipped away as a name and dates were added. I had seen this simple hand carved marker many times, but until I did some ancestry research I didn’t know that Willie H. Collier was my grandmother’s sister. I stood there wondering who carved these words in her stone. Her brother? Her spouse? I'll never know, but it is very special to see this handwriting. Head stones tell a story, offer inspiring words, and represent a traceable history.
Other cemeteries are more elaborate with huge monuments, many of them erected to show the status in the community of the deceased. These large monuments are beautiful pieces of art. Some of the older intricate designs have been chiseled by hand. Skilled carvers created masterpieces on stone that have lasted for generations.
Many family plots are surrounded by stones, concrete or wrought iron fences. Sometimes within those fences are rose bushes. Just the smell of old roses can bring peace and comfort.
Although I’m fascinated by the artwork of elaborate stones, it is the simple stones that I am drawn to. Maybe there wasn’t enough money to erect a large elaborate stone or maybe they were passing through and there was no time to carve or purchase a stone, whatever the reason, they still wanted to honor their loved one.
I always leave a cemetery with a feeling of peace and the reminder that life is very short. I leave with a desire to fully live each moment of my life. I hope that you can find a quiet place. I hope that you can spend time there to restore your mind and heart.
“It matters not how long we live, but how.”
Philip James Bailey