I live across from a cemetery, and I find that comforting. There are no stones or markers. It is more like an open meadow in the city.
Here at the farm in southern Wisconsin, there is another cemetery that brings me comfort. The ancestors are here next to the little country church. My folks tend the graves of those who emigrated from Norway five generations back and the ones who came after. That means they plant the geraniums in the spring, dig them up and winter them in their basement, and water and weed them all summer long. I’ve gone with Dad as we split up and slopped water when the flowers were thirsty.
My sister is the treasurer of the all volunteer cemetery. Sometimes, when someone dies, she arranges for the exact place for the grave to be dug, and one Saturday evening, I went with her. It’s not an easy job because of several factors. The earlier people weren’t so careful about where they put the graves. Some records were not so carefully kept. The frozen ground in the winter made a difference, too. On occasion, she gets her map out, a probe, and sometimes a metal detector to find the spot where the earthly body of the newly departed is to spend eternity.
Last Sunday, the church arranged a Cemetery Walk as part of the 125th anniversary celebration. The family genealogist marked the graves of the ancestors, mounted a family tree on the wall of the parish center, and gave a fabulous slide presentation of those who came before us. It was wonderful to see the connections and cross-connections, learn of the history, and also learn how such searches can be done with artifacts and modern technology.
Prior to recent years, I didn’t care about leaving my own grave. Except for the folks here, I didn’t know anyone who even visited a grave on a regular basis. I have a drawer at my church columbarium for my own remains, there are my “neighbors’” places which are unmarked, and I have seen the stones here with the death date left open in preparation for inevitable. This summer gave me a new perspective.
Silver Hill Cemetery and Historic Cooksville Cemetery helped me to see that eternity is a really long time, and caring for the resting places is the best gift those of us on the top side of the ground can give to those who came before us.