Monday, September 28, 2015

A Walk In the Past

By Fran McNabb 

Delving into the past is a great way to make sense of the present, to learn about the past, or to simply enjoy piecing together what people before us did. My husband and I did this recently when we traveled to his hometown to bury a former classmate. In our spare time, we visited some of the local cemeteries to find graves of my husband’s family. Because his hometown is a small city with many rural communities surrounding it, we were not even sure if we could locate the different cemeteries.

We first visited his hometown cemetery where his parents and one brother were buried. We put flowers there, then with only the name of small rural cemetery and directions from one of his friends, we headed out.

It was a gorgeous, crisp autumn day making our drive quite enjoyable. We drove down winding tree-lined lanes and into what seemed to me to be a long forgotten area of the world. Occasionally we came upon neat little homes with large, well-kept yards. It surprised me how people today could live away from towns, but as my husband says, “It would be a boring world if everyone liked the same thing.”

Finally, we came upon a little white church with a high steeple sitting next to a fence-in graveyard. 
We got out and started walking down the small rows of graves and were amazed to find a half row of tombstones with his family name on them. Some of these markers had been there for well over a hundred years. We found his grandfather’s headstone. As the story goes, his grandfather was killed by a family member while his grandfather was robbing the other man’s trot lines. He had been buried at the young age of 28 in 1922. The man, who supposedly killed him, lived to be 67 and was buried just a feet away. If the story is true, I guess in the early 1900’s, it was okay to shoot someone stealing from your trot lines.

We found graves of Civil War soldiers and of many, many babies. One man had four infant graves next to his with only the identifying words of Infant and the last name. The lack of medical advancement during those years was a harsh reality.  Even my mother-in-law had lost a baby at birth, and on the second day of our search, we visited a third cemetery and found a tiny little marker with his brother’s name on it.

Visiting cemeteries isn’t something my husband and I normally do, but the time we spent on that day was quite meaningful. As we drove away from all the cemeteries, my mind and my heart went out to the families of those people buried there. Sometimes we forgot our ancestors and the people we read about in history books were actual people who lived and breathed, suffered and rejoiced, loved and mourned just as we do today.

 If you have a little time sometimes, take a moment and walk through a cemetery near you. It’s amazing what you might learn.

Fran McNabb writes light romances and is waiting for her eighth book, KEEPING HOPE ALIVE, to be published by The Wild Rose Press. Visit her at www.FranMcNabb.com or at mcnabbf@bellsouth.net.

 

10 comments:

  1. Interesting, Fran. I've long been a fan of cemetery walks - there's so much history literally under foot. One of my favorites is in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario where there are stones dating back to the late 1700s. So sad to see the tiny stones of babies and, in some cases, whole families wiped out by epidemics.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl. Yes, the babies are the sad part, but on the whole, it was an enjoyable, though different day, for my husband and me.

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  2. Interesting, Fran. I've long been a fan of cemetery walks - there's so much history literally under foot. One of my favorites is in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario where there are stones dating back to the late 1700s. So sad to see the tiny stones of babies and, in some cases, whole families wiped out by epidemics.

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  3. What a beautiful post, Fran. I remember, as a child, being taken by my mother to an old cemetery in the country where they had grave-cleaning day once a year. It was a time of story-telling and learning about my family. After the work was done, there was always a big picnic - lots of fried chicken. It's a treasured memory. Thanks for bringing it to mind.

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    1. I, too, remember going with my mom and sisters to their family gravesites and cleaning the marble and raking the area. It was always for All Saints Day.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

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  5. Hi Fran--
    What a great way to spend a couple days and learn about your ancestors. Sad some the unexpected things you discovered but a reminder people lied differently and didn't have the medical advances back then. Thanks for sharing.
    Victoria--

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    1. Oops... typo... "lived" differently, not "lied"

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  6. I love old cemeteries, too, especially the historical ones that are alongside old churches. A local historical group in our town is putting on a cemetery tour with a few local actors portraying the lives of a few of the pioneers buried there. I'm sure it will be a big success.

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