Many years ago, when my illness overtook my life, I threw what energy I had into genealogy. I began with my ancestors. I took the online walks, as many as I was able to. I went to various sites, searching for my ancestors past. I connected to people who carried a partial DNA match to myself. Then, when my health cooperated, I walked the graves.
For being someone who has always had difficulties facing death, it is amazing that I would step into a cemetery on any given day. However, part of genealogy and helping others, is walking the stones. I walk the cemeteries to take pictures of headstones for people in search of their past.
I discovered, through these walks, that I will never be buried. I had always wanted cremation and after my walks, I am determined that this be my final wish. The idea of being burned to completion use to frighten me. Logically, I realize I will not feel the burning and that my body is, simply, a vessel. I know that I will be dead. My religious belief brings me to heaven or hell. Regardless, my body will be empty of a soul once I die. I remind myself that, once I am dead, I will not feel what happens to my body. I can not take up valuable space in the ground when people need space to live. Population rules my mind.
Walking these cemeteries has caused sadness and distress. I want to dig up the stones that have fallen victim to the earth. I want the families to care. I walk through and realize how many people are now forgotten. Stones have faded or disappeared. There are whole areas in the cemeteries where you can no longer see stones in memory of the dead. The ground has swallowed them, trees have grown around them, or they were vandalized. Perhaps they were only set up with a wooden cross. Many were in the olden days. The marble, or whatever the stones were made of, has eroded. Names are no longer visible. The dead are no longer respected.
I give credence to those who go back and replace their ancestors headstones. I give thanks to those cemeteries that take the time to rebuild the sites, to clean them up. Some are so grown over with broken stones. I realize the respect is long gone. I am sure this is not how the dead thought it would be.
In order to fulfill a request for a picture, you will find me trying to dig out a stone. I will pull the grass and dirt away. I keep meaning to get a small spade to help me with this. I have a hand broom to brush away the debris. I realize how I must appear. It is an uneasy feeling that I have while attempting to uncover the stone. Trying to uncover the stone becomes more than attaining a picture. It becomes the need to give respect to the dead that lie there. To not forget them. There was a reason a stone was put there. Out of respect it should still be seen.
As long as my health is willing, I will continue to walk the stones to help others uncover their past. I will pay my respect to those who have gone before me and those some have forgotten. I may forget the names, but I will never forget their stones.
Amen to that! I have never understood grave vandalism – I hope that never happens to any of my ancestors.
That is awful. After reading this, I am glad my dad’s stone is flat and bronze. Mom’s name is also engraved on it, and when the time comes her date of death will be added. I am leaning toward cremation, too…but I don’t yet know what I want done with the ashes.
I have a bunch of papers that I will copy when I can get out and do it, and will send them to you once I get them copied.
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