Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ramblin' on the Blue Ridge

We took a ride up into Virginia yesterday and stopped by a very old graveyard.  It prompted a lot of reflection. 

I don't have much personal experience with graveyards.  I only visited the grave site of one grandparent. My father and in-laws were cremated. We didn't even have a memorial service for any of them. My in-laws were Christian Scientists and they neither talk about death nor acknowledge it publicly. 

The small Gates family burial ground in Virginia sits on a hill, with a nice view of the mountains. It really is lovely, the kind of place I'd like to live rather than be buried in.

The gate posts are carved, although the gate no longer hangs.  Even though the fence is in disrepair and the head stones are leaning, the graveyard is mowed, and there is a rose blooming in the corner. 

It dates back to 1888. I  imagine folks traveling through those gaps and hollers on rough dirt roads. They must have been very serious about final rites. 

How did they scrape together the money necessary to buy a headstone?  

The smallest marker was for an infant who died at birth. I can picture the grieving mama wanting a stone to memorialize their child. 

Apparently, some family members were more affluent. In addition to the deceased's name and dates, they have carved images and quotations, such as "our father, beyond life's toils and cares" and "gone, but not forgotten." Well, actually, he died in 1888 so he is forgotten.

Graveyards are numerous in this part of the country. One of my Colorado friends commented that there are a lot of dead people here. The cemeteries are usually small, sometimes beside a church, and well maintained. When we first moved here I marveled at the change in floral arrangements according to the season. 

From what I observe here in Surry County, NC, styles of tombstones have changed in the last one hundred years. According to one website, the Romans used to commemorate the deceased's valor in battle, or their occupation. We see a little of that here. I don't really understand the popularity of eighteen wheelers carved into granite. Those guys must have really loved their trucks.

Can you imagine a teacher's stone with an apple and bunch of pencils, or the hated high-stakes test engraved as a symbol of your life? 

One modern trend I understand better. In addition to names and dates, a photo can be added to your monument. When somebody like me goes snooping around the graveyard  they can see you at your best. On my tombstone I'm going to be 29 forever!

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