Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cemetery Tours – The Stops Are Worth It

In my younger years, the goal of any on-road excursion was to arrive well under the forecast travel time.   Then one day I got smart. 

With a lifelong interest in genealogy, I’ve always spent a lot of time walking through cemeteries looking for information about my family.  Consequently, even the concentration associated with ‘fast’ trips could not keep my eyes from searching out groups of tombstones along the way.

I remembered the names of all the little towns and waypoints not with road signs but with images of their cemeteries in my mind.

Finally, I succumbed to the desire to pull off the road and wander among the tombstones, regardless of how much time it would add to the trip.  It was the best driving decision I’d made in years.

After a quick drive through it to plan my walking route, I parked and tour began. 

The stones told stories of many mothers who had died young.  Heartbreak leapt off the markers of many of the children.  Inscriptions written by parents, children and siblings evidenced their emotion in poems, scriptural quotes and statements describing the valiant lives of their lost loved ones. 

The sweep of diseases that swept through town were chronicled in the old markers.  Humor was found on the stones of jolly grandfathers and favorite uncles.

The story of the town emerged during my short visit.  Inscriptions read early in the tour had added relevance as they tied to obvious disasters that afflicted families and friends throughout the cemetery.  At times, I retraced my steps to find the markers with common themes.  Other steps were retraced as family relationships became evident and I built their family trees in my mind.

My wayside cemetery tours have always been time well spent.  Now when I motor by the communities, I don’t envision the Gas-and-Go pit stops, nor the clutter of junk along the highway.  Instead, my minds eye sees the town as it used to be.  The citizens of earlier days stroll down the streets.  I see the families that used to live there.  I spot the old surnames on the mailboxes of today’s residents. 

Sometimes unique surnames on the boxes will allow me to think, “Yes, I know your “Loving Mother, Confidant and Friend” and your Father, “Beloved” who said “Death Has No Hold On Me.”

Take the time in your own journeys to really get to know the places along the way.  Spend a little time in their ‘histories in stone’ and enjoy the lessons of history, love, humor and faith written in stone.  You’ll arrive home with memories of places and times that you never knew but reside in the ‘favorites’ folder in your memory.

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