Among the Graves

I’ve developed a recent fascination with graveyards. As morbid as that sounds, in an odd way they’re utterly beautiful. The air today smells of grass and approaching autumn; cool and sharp with a hint of falling leaves. It’s quiet, a fact simultaneously chilling and comforting. Just the wind in the trees and the twittering of birds as they flit through the stones. Perhaps add to that the occasional click of a tiny plastic pinwheel that someone placed in the ground as decoration. Even passing cars seem softer in this valley of stone and scattered foliage.

But it’s more than just nature setting the scene. It’s sobering to wander through the dirt and dust and ashes of those who passed before you. Each life was unique and beautiful; full of joy, suffering, hope, and heartbreak. Some are new, even the earth above them is freshly turned with grass slowly peeking from the displaced dirt. Some are old, so old that they’ve become practically illegible; a life forgotten and eroded by time. Though I squat down, squint and stare, I cannot even read their names. I know nothing of them, except the little American flag makes me think they were in the Armed Forces.

Some of the gravestones are stunning; elaborately carved, tall, marbled, cut into shapes of angels, hearts, and crosses or engraved with poems and portraits of lost loved ones. There are several granite pinnacles with generations of family members carefully etched into the stone with spaces left blank for upcoming generations to join them there. I try not to step on the metal plates at my feet which mark where each one is laid.

All these stones mark a story, the impact of which cannot be guessed by the greatness of its cairn. All ashes look the same. And the cherub respectfully hovering over an intricate inscription, may be guarding nothing more than a guilty son’s attempt to memorialize his cruel Ebenezer Scrooge of a father, and the flat plate, half covered by grass clippings, could be for a nurse who loved greatly and saved many lives. I stare at the stones, longing to read their stories. I want to touch them, to run my fingers over the smooth and rough of their characters, but all I can feel is stone. I find a tree and sit down. I want to tell them I care. I’ll listen. But they remain silent, so I respectfully join them, lingering with them in that silence, the only breathing member of hundreds, dreaming about their stories, with my own story still to live and still to tell.

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© Rachel Svendsen 2015

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28 thoughts on “Among the Graves”

  1. Cemeteries are often quite beautiful places, filled with thousands of stories we may never be privy to. There is peace to be found for all – a hint at the scale of our lives in the universe mapped by each headstone that stretches back in time. I too enjoy visiting them. *smiles*

    – sonmi.u.t.C

    ps – the new layout here looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s interesting what most people say about cemeteries. Wondering about the lives of the different people buried, seems to be a common theme.

    I’m from a small town. when i visit my mom’s grave, aunts, uncles and others i drive through recognizing many if not most of the names i see on the gravestones. while i may not always know the person who is buried at different plots, i know the family name so I can attach a lot of history to those names.

    This is a beautiful thing! And maybe i don’t know how lucky i am that i can do this. It almost seems as though each gravesite with a familiar name is a page in a book. it seems as though each familiar grave momentarily comes to life!

    it’s great “seeing” all the familiar faces or remembering people i grew up with. People who i may not even have known personally, but was familiar with through the commonality of living at a place where everybody pretty much knows everybody else, much like living in a large tribe of people. it’s quite wonderful. i feel privileged to have grown up in such surroundings. (by small town i mean around 5,000 people). unfortunately it’s hard to get away with anything when you are a kid but … it’s not a bad trade off.

    wull … thanks again for visiting. ks

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is beautifully and sensitively written. I’ve often felt similarly when visiting old cemeteries. Who were these people and what did they do? You feel the tragedies as you see the stones of the infants and the very young. You wonder how some made it to old age while others died at birth, and how did the survivors manage so much loss? Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I never told anyone this but because I found you to be so in love with graveyard, that I go there always to do writing. It is facing the hills. And I go there always to write my leather journal. There is something about it so beautiful … I cannot really describe that feeling, but I guess, out of many people, you know what I mean.

        I wish you a lovely weekend, Rachel! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. *shudder* that would be uncomfortable. I personally doubt it, but it’s a fascinating idea. What do you think? Those of us who walk above them, reading their names aloud, would be heard by them and maybe make them feel a little warmer down there. I would probably take time to stop by each one and talk to them, like I used to speak to my grandfather’s grave after he died.

      …Unless of course all my chatter would upsets their “eternal slumber” and make them wake up cranky to start the zombie apocalypse. 😉

      Like

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