There’s a lot of talk about monuments lately, and it got me thinking. What is a cemetery but a series of small monuments over time about ordinary people? Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to old burial places, paying tribute to long-forgotten lives by reading the stones and piecing together the histories.
Each tablet is a monument to someone, memories carved into stone. In some places, the memorials are centuries old, the ones who loved them and remembered them now long dead themselves.
Fathers, mothers, children, entire families have stories told by tombstones in a cemetery. One family grouping I read yesterday showed two children had died in two years, one three years old, one less than two. The third child died in their twenties, and only the fourth child outlived both the parents. Oh, the heartache of those parents.
There are spaces between stones that make me wonder who’s missing, forgotten perhaps, or buried elsewhere later, never to be reunited with the one waiting here under the shade of the old tree. My own grandfather’s plot is like that; the story behind it unknown except that his widow went on to marry twice more and is now buried beside her third husband a county away.
And then there’s Alice. I have no idea who Alice was in life, but her monument shows she was loved and dearly missed by someone.
So the larger world can put up or take down monuments of heroes through the centuries. I’ll find my heroes in the small cemeteries that honor people like me, who struggled through ordinary life and, in the end, as we all do, only left memories in hearts and stone.
“She glanced around at the tombstones. “You’re surrounded by death here. Way too depressing. You really might want to think about getting another job.”
“You see death and sadness in these sunken patches of dirt, I see lives lived fully and the good deeds of past generations influencing the future ones.”
David Baldacci (The Collectors)