I know that not everyone gets or likes cemetery pictures, but I have a thing about old stones. I love exploring old cemeteries and photographing their most antique of headstones. I guess that is no odder than those that do those rubbings of headstones. Back in the day, people photographed their loved ones after they were passed. I’m only photographing the stones placed in memory.
I cannot honestly say what my fascination with headstones is. I kind of love the Civil War era and the older time eras so maybe that is part of it. There is something about these headstones and the mystery they hold. There is almost a sense of peace within their vision, but not all of them. Some of them can feel quite hostile, which probably requires a completely different blog and a little bit of therapy, but that’s a different day.
Today, it is just a need? That doesn’t really seem like the right word. I often think of death, my death. For a long time that has haunted me. I use to have these attacks, almost like panic attacks, about not wanting to die. I’d often wake up after dreaming of my own funeral, which tended to be quite lonely actually. It was a strange period in my life. I didn’t know what caused the fear at first. Death isn’t really something to fear, because it isn’t something we can control. THAT is definitely another blog and another time and probably A LOT of therapy.
I forgot my point. Me and my tangents, they often get the best of me. Anyway, I often reflect on death. Maybe it is because it always around us. There are so many premature deaths and so many who have lived a long life. This could be part of it. I also have a high regard for life and it makes me sad when someone’s comes to an end. I cannot help but wonder what their life was like and if it was fulfilled. I cannot help but ache a little more those that lost their life because of something out of their hands. Life is just such a blessing that when it ends…I don’t know.
One time I was driving to a western store. I know, BIG WHOOP, but this story has a point. I was driving to a store that was two hours away from my home. I did this as a treat to myself. It gave me a few hours to think and travel as well as shop for the thing that I love (or that I’m addicted to. Potato, potata). Anyway, this western store’s route allowed me to take back roads all the way. There was not but country roads, small towns and serenity. This was my kind of heaven, but on this road there was also a cemetery. This cemetery seemed to play a large part in changing my perspective.
Most people cannot deny that at some point in time they have felt drawn to something. There doesn’t have to be a reason (and there often isn’t), but they are drawn to something or someone. When we find this, we have this uncontrollable need to do something about it, explore it, or something. This is what this cemetery did to me. How jacked the mess up is that?
On one of my first trips to this western store, I passed by this cemetery. It was an ordinary cemetery and there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. There were no old time headstones to be seen. There were no fresh burials to be noticed and there was nothing about it that really should have made it stand out. So, why on this green earth I was drawn to it is beyond me, but I was.
In this cemetery, about two or three rows from the road, there was a pinkish marble headstone with flowers. The flowers for this headstone had fallen over and were a big scattered. A normal person probably wouldn’t have noticed and I’m not sure why I did. I mean truth be told, I shouldn’t have but I did. Noticing that the flowers had fell over, I had this uncontrollable need to go set them up and put them back in there place. I tried to disregard it, because I mean, I didn’t know this person and it wasn’t really my place. I lost that battle and went back to straighten them up.
I didn’t pay mind to the name on the headstone or the other three that I ended up setting up their flowers. I just felt that it was something that I needed to do. It was bizarre and to this day I am still not sure why I felt the need to do that. I still don’t know why I feel the need to give a moment of silence to the headstones that really seem to attract my attention. I don’t know why I’m drawn to them. It is just one of those things that I have just kind of accepted. It is an oddness about me that I just hope others don’t hold against me.
Today, as I was photographing and admiring the headstones in this cemetery that I have passed many of times, I was drawn in by a marker. I cannot call it a headstone, because it wasn’t. It was a cross marker. It was the kind of marker that you usually only see in places where someone lost their life in a car wreck or motorcycle accident. A cross marker with décor left to show love and remembrance of the person it was meant to honor. I found it odd that it was places in the back of the cemetery where the only other item was one single headstone several steps away.
It was obvious that the headstone had nothing to do with the cross marker and I was torn as to which one to explore first. The headstone intrigued me, not only because it was old but because it was all by its lonesome. It was in a portion of the field all by its lonesome. It was so far from the other headstones that it was reminded me of a Catholic cemetery where they bury the sinners away from the other burials or a Civil War cemetery where they buried the non-whites away from the other soldiers. I was intrigued by the fact that it was by its lonesome.
I couldn’t help, but wonder why. Had this person disgraced his family? He couldn’t have been unknown, because he has a pretty prominent headstone for that time period. Had his family moved away before they passed and there was no one else to bury in that area? I don’t know. It did make me wonder a bit about my future and what my burial would entail. I won’t go into detail, but I couldn’t help but wonder and fear a little that I would be a lonely headstone out in the middle of a field away from all the rest.
After a few minutes of wondering about this magnificently mysterious headstone, I made my way to the cross. The cross bared a name and a date. It also donned flowers, pictures, wind chimes, and a note. It was apparent that someone still often visited this site. Most likely a mother lost, having lost her child and not ever truly being able to move on. There was such pain and sadness that is still making my heart ache a little bit.
The pictures were obviously newer than the headstone was old, but they had faded from time and weather. Still the image of a beautiful young woman was visible. The hair curly as would be in style for that time period and a smile that may or may not have been pure at the time. The flowers were faded, but also had not been there as long as the cross. Another note, plain and clear, stating that the girl’s who name the cross bared had been killed here. The pain became more evitable at that point. I stood there mourning her for a moment. This stranger I did not know, but that had lost her life tragically and unnecessarily. So much unnecessary sadness.
I would find out later, because I was intrigued and looked it up (her name seemed awfully familiar), that she had been raped and murdered at the mere age of 16. It would take them many of years to capture the animal that did and he would eventually get life in prison. Still it would not replace the pain and lost that I’m sure the family and friends still feel. That I feel for them. It is moments like that I am reminded how precious this life is and I respect it a little bit more than the moments before.
I don’t know why I am drawn to the things that I am drawn to. I do not know why I find serenity in the old headstones that grace the cemeteries. I just know that those headstones hold details to someone else’s life and I know that this life is the one and only one that we get. Or at least the only one we get to remember and that is worth making note of.
Copyright 2013 ~SMH~
(picture and writing)