I’ve been spending a lot of time at the cemetery lately, primarily because we have a pretty nice cemetery, and also because I’ve been working on a project there. I also just like cemeteries. They are quiet, and peaceful, and rather beautiful, and there are always lots of things to explore. Like most angsty teenagers, I spent my fair share of time in the cemetery in my youth, and it’s kind of enjoyable to come back with more experience; and while our cemetery is fairly small, I find something new every time I go. I always come away with a stack of photos (figuratively speaking) and questions about the various people in the cemetery.
Rose Memorial Park is pretty excellent, as far as cemeteries go. I sometimes run into someone there, but generally I try to give people their space, seeing as how they are usually visiting graves of people they loved and I’m photographing lichen and interesting floral carvings. I also try to do my part there, in terms up uprighting flowers which have been knocked over and cleaning headstones. Our cemetery seems to be pretty vandal-free, which is rather nice; most of the upended flowers and tombstones appear to have been moved by the force of nature, not by nasty little fingers.
While I was walking in the cemetery the other day, someone came in to be cremated. First I saw the funeral home’s van whisking briskly down the central driveway, and then a second car, and about half an hour later, a thready line of smoke came up from the crematorium. This being a small sort of place, chances are that I probably knew that person, and I took a moment to hope that his or her passing was brief, surrounded by friends and family.
One of the most interesting things about Rose Memorial, to me, is the old section. Our older graves aren’t incredibly old, but they are oldish, and they are hidden away among the trees on sloping hill to the North. If you amble down the hill, you can see Pudding Creek below, often with a few waterbirds splashing around. It seems like a calm, peaceful sort of place, and it makes me wonder if you can apply to be buried in the old section. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with Woodrow E. Matthews and Andrew Christensen, “born in province of West Prussia.”
The old section is also a bit sad, as there are some graves which are marked only by tin tags which once held slips of paper, or fading wooden grave markers. I hope that the cemetery has a complete listing somewhere of all those graves, because it would be sad to be lost entirely, and it makes me wonder about the possibility of setting up a nonprofit organization to put up headstones for those people so that people can wander around 50 years from now and still find them.
There are also a surprising number of infant and baby graves, most of which are divided into three sections from the early 1900s, the mid 1900s, and today, although a few are scattered and alone. Baby graves are kind of depressing. There’s something very grim about the obviously small plots and the grave markers of people who only lived for a few hours, if at all. You also learn surprising things about people, in the baby graves section; I felt like an unwanted voyeur in the modern baby graves.
There’s incredible variance at Rose Memorial, from the regimented military graves to the flat brass plaques in the modern section. The Van Damme crypt, and a hand-made headstone set with stained glass. Beautiful and ornate floral carvings, and plain headstones marked only with a simple cross or Star of David. One grave is surrounded by blown glass flowers, in a permanent memorial, and many of the Catholics have big lamps on their graves. Some of the older graves are still covered in flowers and mementos, while some new graves are barren and lonely. Francisco Hurtado, querido esposo, padre, abuelito, has a marker covered in flowers and angels, although he passed away six years ago. Many of the old baby graves have flowers; I think that someone goes around and distributes them, and I think that’s very touching.
Every now and then I see the grave of someone I know, and I stop by for a brief visit, to straighten their flowers and say hello. The dead are excellent listeners, of course, but if you sit in a state of stillness for a long time, sometimes you can hear them responding to you.
The slideshow below is a collection of some of my more interesting photos from Rose Memorial Park. If you click on each photo, you can get more details about it, or you can just enjoy the photographs. If you have information about the lives of any of the people buried in Rose Memorial, please tell me about it; I would like to collect the stories of people buried there. I’m also a volunteer for Find a Grave, so if you have any special requests, be sure and let me know.
(Alas, if you’re reading along on an RSS feed, you may have to click through to see the photographs; I apologize, but it appears that some feed readers take exception to embedded material. If you happen to know a nifty trick for setting up a slideshow which will appear in feed readers, let me know!)