Missing the angel of death

Courtesy of Burpee Seed Company

Courtesy of Burpee Seed Company

In our culture we put flowers on the graves of our loved ones for special occasions like Christmas or All Saints Day. We also plant some in the ground for the summer. After accompanying my mother on these excursions as a child, I continued the tradition after her death.

I have shared this task with my niece who lives closer to the cemetery. This year I bought the flowers first so I planted. I picked out hot pink geraniums. My mother loved them. I planted them in front of the family gravestone.

The cemetery is owned by my childhood church. It is a lovely place to visit because everyone plants. There are beautiful flowers blooming among the green grass and gravestones — very parklike except for the dead people.

When I arrived, there was a crew digging a grave and two other women planting. It was very quiet except for the backhoe.

I turned the soil over, added humus, planted the flowers, mulched and watered. Since no one takes care of the flowers all summer, the mulch keeps the weeks down and the soil moist.

Then I noticed the crew leaving with their backhoe. I was not thinking about it at all until I noticed that they circled around and parked in the back part of the cemetery. They just sat in the truck.

Oh no! They will sit there until the funeral is complete. Then they will close the grave. That means there is a funeral on the way!

There is no way I want to get caught up in a funeral procession or end up with my car parked in by sad people breaking my pleasant reverie. I don’t think I have ever moved so fast to get my tools in the car and get out of Dodge.

That was really unfortunate because I enjoy walking the grounds to see who is new. I know many of the family names. They were people who were adults when I was a kid. I thought they were “old” back then! Now I am older than they were and I think it’s young!

As a young child my mother would take me on walks in old cemeteries. They were fascinating gravestones and we would weave stories about the inhabitants. Sometimes there were many young children in a family (typhoid epidemic?) or two or three wives (the travails of childbirth). Life was short and hard back then. I feel lucky I to be living now. I wonder if people will feel the same way in another century.

For a far funnier post about cemetery tripping, read A Thin Girl’s post here.

21 thoughts on “Missing the angel of death

  1. I will be cremated and have told daughter to cast my ashes off a bridge in North Miami. I told her to make sure the wind is at her back so the ashes don’t blow back and the cars run over them and I get killed again.

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  2. I love visiting cemeteries too! Always quiet and park-like, and interesting things to look at. They are fascinating places to visit. The old ones in PA always have such a feeling of history too.

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  3. We like to go to a very old and nationally known cemetery to take long walks. There’s something fascinating about seeing the names of people born 200/300 years ago. But where we go to walk if we saw a backhoe we’d probably stop and stare because of how unusual that would be. Those Revolutionary War graves are generally all filled-in by now.

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    • The really old cemeteries my Mom and I visited were like that. Some of the gravestones were pretty beat up and some toppled over (not by vandalism). As a kid, I was really fascinated.

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  4. A lovely tradition, Kate. I hope this Native American prayer will give you some comfort:
    “I give you this one thought to keep – I am with you still – I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not think of me as gone – I am with you still – in each new dawn.

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  5. There is a very beautiful cemetary in Toronto — Mt. Pleasant cemetary. It is huge and is filled with lovely winding pathways. There of lots of big old trees and the flower gardens are just magnificent. There’s a lot of room between graves, and there are benches everywhere. It is beautiful and calm and serene. A place where people go just to sit and contemplate, even if they are not going to a funeral or visiting a grave. They have create a place that is as much for the living as for the deceased.

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  6. Old cemeteries are interesting. The markers, the landscaping/trees…so many stories.
    We live far from the ones where family are- we/cousins take turns driving and freshening flowers a couple of times a year. Works for now, but all the younger generation are even farther away. Nice you and family are nearby.

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    • There were several years when I was in a different state and it was too hard to make it. At least now I can easily visit. There is a peace and tranquility (especially when the grave diggers aren’t there). People you meet there are very chatty too.

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  7. Your mom sounds like such an amazing person. The mother daughter walk made me think of Pupi and how she loves to hear stories. The cementary would be a great place to learn about history and tell stories. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I don’t plan to bury myself and I have told others to not bury me either. Ashes are fine with me. Their decision to do what they want with the wee bit of legacy I will be leaving them. 😦
    I do agree on the charm of old cemeteries. Those with lots of trees for shade built on just a bit of a hillside with roads that circle around. Yet not a place to linger……..

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  9. I love this. There are so many customs which keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and minds long after they are gone. We Jews place a stone or pebble on the grave when we visit-among other things it symbolizes the permanent memory of that person. My dad had a huge sweet tooth so when I visit his grave I leave rock candy instead of rocks. 🙂

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  10. Delightful and sad at the same time. I know I love to amble around old cemeteries too, especially ones like you describe. But I understand you wanting to hightail out of there to miss the tears. Sometimes I think we carry around enough of our own sadness to last a lifetime.

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    • I had hoped to check out who was getting buried after the gravediggers left but I wasn’t taking any chances. A few years ago when I set out the Christmas log, there was a funeral at the other end of the cemetery. It turned out to be someone I knew well when I was younger and he was my age.

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