On my daily walks I’ve been detouring through a nearby cemetery, a very old graveyard with some headstones from the 1800s.
The inscriptions are fascinating to read, and I try to picture the people behind the names and imagine the lives they led.
Hundreds of simple stone markers are here among dozens of elaborate monuments. Some of the oldest stones are faded, with names and dates difficult to read; more than a few have toppled, not from vandalism but from decay and from tree roots pushing up over the decades.
On each visit I try to take the time to venture into a section I haven’t visited previously. There’s always a new and interesting find. (As a bonus, I’ve also come across a local bagpiper who uses the cemetery to rehearse, which I think is very cool.)
One particularly poignant marker is for 17-year-old Charlie Morgan, who “accidentally shot himself” in 1856. I haven’t been able to find out anything about him from local records, but I intend to keep trying.
Every section of the cemetery is graced with military markers, including a massive 25-foot high, 24-ton monument honoring more than 100 local men killed in the Civil War, or who died of disease attributed to their wounds.
On a recent visit, I spotted a World War I marker for U.S. Marine Clarence Dennis, killed in France in the horrific, weeks-long battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918. The battle cost the lives of 10,000 Marines but repelled the Germans’ advance on Paris.
These discoveries are a good reminder of how hard life was for those who came before us. They’re also an ideal way to put things into perspective, to step back and assess what I’m doing with my life and how to go about what I still want to accomplish. There is much to do.
Ultimately, as much as I appreciate cemeteries, I’m not going to end up in one.
I’m a registered organ donor and will be cremated, my ashes destined for several locations important to me — including the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass. A commemorative brick will be placed in a Memory Garden in my village. That’s it. The simpler, the better.
But after many explorations of my neighborhood cemetery, I’ve decided to make an additional final request of my three sons — to spread some of my ashes here as well. And to have a bagpiper play when they do so.