What do you see when you see a cemetery? Probably not the best opening sentence to an article for geared to seniors. But really this is food for thought for everyone. Is it spooky? Is it a reminder we’re all mortal? Is it sadness?
To me, it’s one thing: history. History is nothing if not for the people who lived it. If anyone follows me, my husband or family, you know we enjoy traveling when we have the time or resources. And each time I come across an old cemetery, I like to read the names, the dates, the epitaphs, and try to imagine what they would have been like – what it would have been like to live in their time.
Gold miners who never made it beyond the Golden Staircase in Alaska during the Gold Rush: were they greedy? Opportunistic? Both? They were certainly quite young for the most part when you calculate the age of their death.
On the other side of the world, a vast cemetery surrounds an ancient Monastery in the Wicklow Mountains in Glendalough, Ireland. Stones aged and weathered to where you can’t read the writing stand (or lean rather) next to marble stones placed days earlier. I guess if you have the family name, in the family plot you shall go, as long as there’s still room. It really is a strange sight, though. It’s like, antiquity and the modern world are juxtapositioned, and you are standing both in the past and the present somehow.
I’ve come across a similar feeling in the Boston/New England area. A modern car driving on a cobblestone street past a 200 year-old cemetery that is completely blackened by time…. I can’t make out much writing on the tombstones, but I still wonder, “Did this man throw tea into the harbor?” “Did this child die of smallpox?” “Did this woman cook with a wood-burning stove and homeschool 6 children?” “Did this family attend that old church over there?” ………