Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Cemeteries

As a child, I used to skateboard on cemetery roads. The local cemetery served as a playground.

Reaching teenage years, yes, it became a place of romance (or a "makeout" spot, depending upon whether you were the guy or the girl). It might seem a bit strange, but I can remember on several occasions having to relocate due to the arrival of a funeral crowd.

My uncle's grave was the only one I was familiar with in that particular cemetery, though I later discovered that more family was there. I did occasionally remember to pay my respects.

Having grown up thinking that cemeteries were fun, I have never felt uneasy in them. I have never thought of there being spirits there or anything besides stones and a great deal of history.

Looking for my ancestors, I have discovered something new about cemeteries. There is a bit of "life" in them, whether real or perceived.

Three examples:

(1) I had the opportunity to visit Oak Glen Cemetery in Ledyard, Cayuga, New York. I was looking for the grave of one of my g-g-g-g-grandfathers. His name was Sherman Smith. I was fortunate that day in that there were many people with me including my husband, son, mother and mother-in-law. They were all good sports about it and agreed to help me locate this grave. We split up and walked through the cemetery row by row. We did not find the grave, yet I had records indicating it was there somewhere. A bit disappointed, and ready to leave, I had a sudden feeling come over me that told me to go back to one particular spot and look there. This was an area that my husband had just finished searching and, knowing him, he was more thorough about searching than I was. Something made me go to that spot. The grave was right there in plain sight. Trying not to read into this, it almost felt like I was supposed to be the one to find it. Very strange.

(2) I dragged my husband to Pittsfield Cemetery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It was Halloween (that was a coincidence). I was looking for the graves of my g-g-g-g-grandparents, Charles and Rosalie Theunert (who changed their name to Smith or Schmidt). The cemetery had no record of such graves, but they also had no record of the grave of their daughter, Augusta, and I had previously located it there. Unfortunately, this cemetery is HUGE. So section by section and row by row my husband and I searched. At one point, I was in a section and was suddenly surrounded by crows. They were making an absolute racket. It was not until my husband called me on my cell phone to ask me what all the noise was and to find out if I was okay, that I began to feel a bit creepy about the situation. I changed course. The day went on and the cemetery was too big for us to handle. On the way out, I asked him to take one last drive around. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a stone with "Vogel" on it. That name meant something to me and I told him to stop. It turned out that at that spot were the graves of two of Charles and Rosalie's children - Johanna and Mary Caroline. They were there with their spouses, Henry Vogel and Augustus Frohlich. Beside the Vogel graves was a small stone -- "R.S." I know it's a long shot, but I really feel like this could be the grave of Rosalie Smith/ Schmidt.

(3) My cousin, Gail, and I went to Saint Mary's Cemetery in Warwick, Rhode Island, looking for my g-g-grandparents, John Baker and Jane Davis, immigrants from Ireland. Records found in the Warwick library indicated that the graves of some of their children were there, listed in a particular section. We got out of the car and walked that section and did not find the graves. We got distracted and started talking and walking around, randomly looking. After a while, Gail (being a voice of reason) told me that the cemetery was too big and we could walk it forever and never find what we were looking for. About to give up, I jokingly raised my hands into the air and pleaded "ancestors, will you help us out?". I turned around, and the Baker family graves were right behind me. I never found John and Jane's graves, but I did find the graves of their children. It was as if I called and they answered. 

Strange and funny things...

I suppose I could start to wonder about who might have been watching during those moments of cemetery "romance", but I won't go there...

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