Monday, September 2, 2013
Walking In The Stone Gardens
My sister and I have been on a genealogy road trip through south-central Missouri for the last few days. It involved many beautifully wooded winding roads going up and down through the hills and valleys of the Ozarks and hours spent standing in the blazing sun (why didn't we do this in November?) in various old cemeteries. We learned that rubbing plain white flour onto a deteriorated marble headstone will make what appears to be a completely lost inscription legible once. Amazing!
We located the graves of two of our great-great-great grandfathers and mothers and a whole passel of extraneous kinfolk. We said hi and introduced ourselves. I can't imagine why they would ever leave such a lovely, wooded land to come out and live on the bald prairie of the panhandle or north-central Oklahoma. Absolutely absurd. I am sure it was the promise of cheap land that lured them away but why on earth did they stay? Oh my. They were obviously made of sterner stuff than I am. I think I would have turned that wagon around and gone home after one quick look.
We also learned that having children was a very risky business before modern medicine. The most horrific example of this was a series of graves we found in the Buffalo Cemetery in Sullivan, Missouri. The girl was married at age thirteen and had her first child in her fourteenth year. It died. She had one child that lived and two more that died before she was eighteen. She died giving birth to her fifth child when she was nineteen years old. That child too died at birth. Our hearts wept for her and the babes she bore.
It is interesting to walk around and study headstones, at least it is for me. I am perfectly at ease in cemeteries because we have one here on our farm and have been in charge of mowing and caring for it for years. I feel like those people are part of the family and, in point of fact, most of them are. The cemetery hill is the best place to throw down a blanket in the middle August and watch the meteor showers, while fireflies dance among the stones around you.
There's nothing creepy about it. Cemeteries are places to stop and remember those who lived before you and paved the way for you, gave you your life, really. An afternoon spent wandering and remembering them brings a certain perspective into play. Everyone dies, some sooner than others, but nonetheless. Use the time you have been given to be kind, work hard and be generous with your gifts.
That was the basic take away for my sister and I.