The Stories Remain

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I’m weird.  I like cemeteries.

Mt Zion Cemetery

It’s not a morbid fascination with death or an interest in the supernatural and for a while, I really couldn’t explain why I liked them.  But now I understand – I like them because of the stories they tell.  Years ago, I purchased a book called “Stories in Stone:  A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography.”  I learned about the meanings of many of the symbols used in funerary art and stopped there for a bit.  Reading a book about it was one thing, but tromping through old burial grounds for fun would be quite another.

Birdsboro Cemetery

Years later, my husband gave me a digital SLR camera as a birthday gift – purchased with literally pennies and pocket change that we had been saving for over 15 years.  So, I had this nice camera and I was looking for subjects – preferably free places, since our spare change had just been used up.  The time had come…I began my hobby of heading to grave yards.

My husband, kind and indulgent soul that he is, usually comes out with me.  He’s into mobilography, so there’s no fighting over the camera.  What’s really interesting is how we each have a different focus, so we “read” different stories on these visits.  I notice the symbolism and the art

work and I think about what stories the grieving families, and sometimes the deceased themselves, were trying to tell.  He notices the family names and dates and is able to see stories of bad years and big families.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Show me your cemeteries, and I will tell you what kind of people you have.”  He understood that cemeteries tell the stories of a people, stories that remain.

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2 responses »

  1. I hope someone puts something really interesting on my tombstone- i like to think that someday in the distant future, hopefully, someone walks past and goes “I wonder what her story was?” I’d really like to read that field guide now…

    • Speaking of stories – one of the tombstones I still think about was for a woman named Hellen Hilyer (1897-1989). Her stone is marked:
      We Fight – Get Beat
      We Rise And Fight Again

      You can’t help but wonder what her story was…

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