Whenever possible, I like to walk during my lunch break at work. I find it helps clear my mind and it gets me away from my sometimes crazy workplace. The office is located in the center of a relatively small village and in the summertime the traffic zooms by. My walking place of choice is the cemetery that is located a few feet away. Let me be clear. I am very respectful while I am walking. If I see a service in progress, I stay far away and I also detour when I see someone visiting a grave site. If I play music or an audible book, I only do it with earphones on. Sometimes I walk with purpose and sometimes I wander and look at the various grave markers.
The first thing you notice this time of the year when you enter the cemetery is all of the flags. A local organization puts out flags on graves of the veterans. In addition, the fire department puts out their flags on their fallen comrades. It is wonderful to look around and see how many flags there are gently flapping in the breeze. A sense of peacefulness envelopes me in just a few steps.
On Friday, I took a stroll around the cemetery and stopped and looked at many graves. The cemetery has grave sites that are new and grave sites that are from the 1800s. Sometimes, I know the story of a particular person and sometimes I don't. Sometimes, I can only wonder and sometimes, I use my imagination.
One grave marker is very heart wrenching is the one that marks the grave of 6 children who were killed in a house fire in the 1940s. The family also lost a daughter a few years before that. However, I also see some positives reflected at that grave. The marker was donated to the parents by workers in our local navy yard. I imagine that the community rallied around these parents and gave them financial and (hopefully) emotional support. It also makes me happy to see that both parents are buried there. They both lived long lives and it appears that this immense tragedy did not break them up. This grave shows both sadness and strength to me.
Another marker that makes me grin when I walk by is from the 1800s. It lists a man, his first wife, Jane and his second wife, Jane. I also pause when I pass the marker for the man who was named after the Vice President from Maine, Hannibal Hamlin (insert last name here). Somehow, I don't think many babies are being named Joseph Biden (insert last name here). These two graves show how times have changed.
I stopped by and visited the grave site of a distant cousin of my husband's. I knew the parents but never knew their son who was killed in Vietnam. I get a sense that the parents and the son have been reunited.
Some grave markers make me shake my head in sadness as I go by because I do know stories behind them. I see the marker for the 16 year old who snuck out one winter evening to go to a party and never made it home. Her mother was sick in bed and didn't know her daughter had left until the police showed up on her doorstep. I see markers for people who lost the battle to drug addiction and wonder (as their parents must) what if.
I walk by the marker for a young girl who fought - but lost - a valiant battle against cancer. There were many fund raisers for her and her parents were dedicated to her and to the fight against cancer. This story has some happiness in it too. Shortly after her death, her mother discovered that she was pregnant. It wasn't a planned pregnancy but the new baby was born on the first anniversary of the older one's death. It makes you wonder if a higher power was involved in that one!
There is one marker that makes me wonder. It is a relatively new one and it lists the woman's name and "beloved daughter, wife and mother". I probably wouldn't even think twice about that except that I know that she was killed in a car accident when she was with her boyfriend who was drunk. I always wonder what her husband thinks when he sees the wife part on the marker. They had young children and I imagine he brings them to visit.
There are two large markers that don't have names on them. One says "Mom" and one says "Dad". The mother is deceased and she does have an individual flat marker with her name on it. In between these two marker is the market for a young sailor. This grave is several years old but is always well tended. It also has a plastic boat in front of it. The man who oversees the cemetery says that the boat has been there for years. It is against the cemetery rules but he looks in the other direction in many cases. He said it amazes him that the boat never gets blown away or taken by someone.
Of course, the children's markers are all very sad. Once gravestone has the picture of a young boy in a Little League uniform etched on it. The flat marker is white marble shaped like home plate and there are usually baseballs scattered around the big marker. There is also a plaque outlining his accomplishments in Little League. He was quite the player. I don't know what happen to him as he passed away just a few short months after a very successful baseball season.
As I walk, I also think about my parents. I live quite a few miles away from where they are buried and I rarely get to visit their gravesite.
I return to the office a little subdued but with a sense of peace and a sense of what is really important in life. Many markers say "Beloved Wife and Mother" but none say "Beloved Insurance Agent".
Here's to lunchtime strolls.