Or, The Dead Help us Know We’re Alive
On a recent trip to Boone, North Caroline, we stumbled upon two very old cemeteries. There is something about finding an old gravestone from someone who has already been in the ground for 131 years, that just puts you right in your place. We get to thinking that we and our troubles, causes and concerns are so important. And then, BAM! You realize that none of it will matter in 100 years. Kind of puts it all into perspective.
When I wander through cemeteries I try to imagine the lives that people might have lived. Sometimes I try to put together a story of what might have happened in certain families.
For example, this 14 year old girl died in 1950, before the technology was there to put a photograph on a ceramic tile. Yet, years after her passing, someone loved her enough to come back to her grave and put a beautiful photograph of her on the headstone.
At least Gail Hagie has a grave marker. Many of the graves have only plain standing stones, without inscriptions of any kind. They make me think of Stonehenge. All we know is that someone, surely once loved by another, is buried beneath that spot.
I realize it was the tradition of the time, but it always bothers me to find headstones for women that either say Mrs. What’s His Name or simply ‘wife’. Gone. Vanished. Who were they? I know I am writing from my own, post feminist, staunchly INDIVIDUAL perspective, but my god, did they not deserve to at least have their very own NAME written on their grave marker? I am also aware that many of those very same women would not have thought it odd. Seems a shame.
This young man, a victim of the war in Iraq, was outlived by his own father, who managed to survive WWII. They were buried side by side. How it must have galled the father to have to put his son in the ground before himself. I found the words on his headstone oddly comforting. No words about ‘god’ or ‘country’. Just simple faith in the earth.
I suppose there are far worse fates than to live out your life in a close knit, self reliant mountain community and to sleep throughout eternity in a literal earthly paradise.