I love to wander though old cemeteries and look at tombstones…or headstones…or markers. Whatever you call them, they’re supposed to be a tactile testament to someone who was once here.
I know there are people who regularly visit these cold stone monoliths on the anniversary of the departed one’s birthday, or death day if they so choose, or if they’re close enough.
What if these people live in another state, hours away? Will they make the yearly trek to stand in pensive silence while looking at a plot of land that holds the remains of a once living person? Will they require their children to make that trek, and expect them to pretend to be sad about a person that they never even knew?
I’ve seen elaborate headstones, complete with the names, dates of birth and dates of death of the occupants laying in front of them. There are angels carved into the shiny facade and more often than not, empty urns adorn each side.
Will these people be remembered and revered more than the people who rest at the bottom of the hill, called the cheap seats, which are now disintegrating from the ravages of time?
I have never made a secret of the fact that I find markers irrelevant.
There is a rather large tombstone bearing my family name. It’s not what I would call elaborate, but it is the first thing you see when you travel up the winding, neglected dirt road leading into the cemetery that can’t even be found on most maps.
Another irony is that of those six burial plots, only one body actually occupies a space. My youngest brother is resting there, although you would never know. He had a simple marble plaque, bearing only his first name, the year of his birth and the year of his death. Someone stole his little marker.
My mama is dead, but she is not buried there. I’m still toting her around in the trunk of my car.
My middle brother is dead, but he is not buried there.
My daddy is dead, but he is not buried there.
There was once a bronze plaque given to my daddy by the government, in appreciation for his service in the armed forces. Someone took it, I imagine to sell for scrap metal. The Veterans Administration was gracious to send another one, this time in marble. Maybe it’s still there.
Unless I decide to have a marker made for mama and both of my brothers, they will remain nameless to future generations. All of them are already lost to my children’s generation. My children knew about my younger brother, but they never knew my middle brother, and barely remember my mama and daddy. They will never visit the cemetery.
Their children will know nothing about them, other than what their parents might remember, and choose to tell them.
I will be lost after my children’s generation. My grandchildren may hear my name mentioned, but they will not know me or remember me.
There’s not much of a family history on my side. All links come to an abrupt halt with both maternal and paternal great-grandfathers, after four short generations.
My mama never knew her daddy, and although she knew his name, I have never been able to find any record of him. It’s almost as though he was just a figment of someone’s imagination, but of course, mama had to get here somehow.
My daddy’s mama never knew her father. She had a picture of him hanging in her house, and once I heard her say to my grandfather, “I dreamed I saw my daddy last night.”
I remember the picture. It was the usual style for that time. Oval frame, bubble glass and a non-smiling photo of a man she nor I had ever known.
I never saw pictures of my grandparents when they were young. I remember one picture of my grandfather when he looked to be maybe in his late forties. He was holding a large stone over his head with one hand. Someone, probably my grandmother, had written “50 lbs.” on it.
My children never knew them. They will never know what wonderful, caring people they were. They will never know how proud my grandmother was when I told her that one of my children was named after my daddy, who bore his daddy’s name. My children will never visit their graves.
I have a picture of granny (mama’s mama) when she was young. I have tried to see mama in it, but I’ve never really been able to. I can see my aunt and uncles, but not mama. Granny was pretty, with that dark hair and those dark eyes, but her eyes looked harsh like mama’s, even though mama’s eyes were ice blue.
Mama showed me a picture of granny when she was in her fifties. She had perfectly straight, snow white teeth that looked like dentures, but they were her own.
Granny has a marker. She rests not far from my little brother, and I know the Bible that she read religiously, every single day, is resting with her. There are two angel figurines on her tombstone that I’m sure were put there by mama. As far as I know, her grave is never visited, except by me. My children will never visit her grave.
One of her sons, mama’s half-brother is there, but I have never been able to find his grave. Nobody visits his grave, I’m sure.
My children do however, visit their paternal grandfather and great-grandparents’ graves. Two of them have said that they want to be buried with their daddy, in the “family” cemetery. I guess that makes sense. After all, they are his children.