There is a cemetery situated about two miles from where I live. The oldest headstone dates back to 1861. The cemetery is encased in an old metal fence and surrounded by cornfields. The stones are shaded by large oak and pine trees, and the air is scented by old-fashioned lilacs. The lawn of the cemetery is blanketed in lavender, purple and white creeping phlox. At the peak of bloom, the sight takes your breath away. Many of the headstones are written in German as this area was settled mainly by Germans.Whenever I go there I sense the history of the area. As I walk down the not-so-straight rows of graves, I can picture women in their long, black dresses and men stiff-necked in their high collars, mourning a family member. Loved ones whose dates span only a few day or years, are mixed in with people who lived for decades. One can only guess if the headstone for a young wife was put there after she died of childbirth. One of the founding fathers of our little town is buried here. It’s sad to see some of the older stones broken and others where the printing is difficult to read. I wish there was some way to preserve them.
I’ve walked this cemetery several times. Once for the city book I wrote and once for the area military book. I wonder about the stories of these people, many of which I now know because of my research. I wonder how parents survived the loss of children. How does one handle being the parent of seven children on Monday and only two or three by Friday during the diphtheria outbreaks during in the early 1900s. Some are simply buried in mass graves.Then there are the flag holders for the veterans, many of whom fought during the Civil War and one the War of 1812. Many headstones state the branch of service and years in the military. Some, unfortunately, state when and where they died or were killed in service. One, nearly a hundred years old, portrays the sentiment still in place today.
Each year members of the surrounding area come together and clean up the cemetery. Tables are lined with food, children run among the headstones while the elderly sit in chairs reminiscing about the times they were able to frolic among their ancestors. The sound of weed whackers and lawn mowers mask the singing of birds as the “middle-agers” kneel at the graves, cleaning out dead grass and planting bright flowers. A sense of continuance covers the sense of loss. Flags are placed in the holders to honor our veterans.
Every year I tell myself I’m going to get pictures. So this past Friday, knowing clean-up day would be the next day, I came back from my run, grabbed my camera, jumped into the van and headed down the road. I thought with all the rain we’d had, nothing would have been done yet. Much to my dismay, the cemetery had already been mowed. The masses of creeping phlox were trimmed so only a few colors were exposed. Flags were already in place.
So today, I decided to go back and take pictures to share with you. I hope you enjoy them.
Until the next time.