Last week I posted a poem I entered into an International Peace Day themed contest (you can vote for it here!) I mentioned in that post that my poem was partially inspired by a walk through a cemetery adjacent to a nature park.
The cemetery was Evergreen Cemetery, right next to Evergreen Park. Evergreen Park is small, but serene, and one of its paths joins the walkways in the cemetery.
This may sound strange, but I actually like walking through cemeteries. When I was in grade school, I went on numerous field trips to the old graveyards in my small Massachusetts hometown. We noted the years and months during which people died, identified life spans by looking at the dates on head stones and then coming up with averages, and noted who was buried with family, and who was not.
My favorite part was taking rubbings of the artwork on the headstones, and looking up the symbolism of different images later. All of this was an effort to teach us how history is studied, the difference between haphazard graveyards and organized cemeteries, and the impact of religion on life in early colonial Massachusetts
I also mage cemetery visits with my grandparents when my siblings and I stayed with them. We would go to their parents and other relatives graves, help with cleaning away any offending weeds or brown flowers, replacing them with fresh ones.
My Grandfather passed away in Rhode Island the week before my visit to Evergreen Cemetery. Like many who have had a relative pass away in a distant state, it proved impossible to travel for his burial, which would have been limited to a very small amount of people. The reasons not to even attempt to travel from a state with the high amount of COVID cases that North Carolina has are all understandable, but it was a difficult and sad to accept that I couldn’t go.
So it was fitting that I happened upon the cemetery path. If I couldn’t visit my grandfathers grave, at least I could visit someone’s. My husband and I spent some time wandering Evergreen cemetery, reading the names on the graves, noting their lifespans, the years and months they died, who was buried with family, who was buried alone, and piecing together a little bit of their history.