Monday, July 8, 2013

Visiting the family


A Cemetery

This Quiet Dust was Gentlemen and Ladies,
and Lads and Girls;
was laughter and ability and sighing,
and frocks and curls

This passive place a Summer's nimble mansion
Where Blooms and Bees
Fulfilled their oriental circuit
Then ceased liked these.

Emily Dickinson


Those who are dead are not dead
they're just living in my head...
42, Coldplay

One of my pilgrimages while visiting the village where my dad's family is from was to find the graves of my grandfather's two older brothers.  While all of the rest of the family is buried outside of town where we just laid my dad to rest, these two boys were buried behind the local church around the corner from the house my father grew up in.

Every family has these stories.  Of the five children my great-grandmother Augusta gave birth to, two died tragically young.  The first, Russell, was only 5 years old when he caught pneumonia and died.  The other, Harold, was even more tragic, catching and cutting his leg on a metal fence and then dying of tetanus shortly thereafter.

It is interesting that the two boys were not buried with my great-grandparent's family, but I suspect Augusta buried them in the churchyard as it was only a five minute walk from her home and my great-grandmother could go and visit them as often as she liked.

The church graveyard is a ruin now.  My uncle and brother and I walked up there early Saturday morning.  The entire cemetery is completely overgrown with fallen trees and out of control weeds and the tombstones are hidden by shrubs or have fallen or been knocked over.  It took us awhile, but we finally found Russell; a tiny old tombstone hidden in the far right corner.  We couldn't find Harold but there were several stone fallen over nearby which were too heavy to move.  I am going to go back later this summer and now that my uncle knows where they are are he is going to try and get some folks to prop them.


I am inherently sentimental and interested in all things historical.  I was so relieved to find Russell; no one has likely visited him in many many years.  I had a little conversation with both brothers and regretted that I had not retained even one rose for them, but will remedy that in a future visit.  I like the lovely green maple leaf at the base of the grave; hadn't noticed that yesterday!  I have also made a vow that should I come into some money in the next few years, maybe by becoming a famous authoress, I am going to give this poor little church some money so that the graveyard can be brought back to rights.  It just needs a little love and attention and probably a few thousand dollars...

The older I get the more important I find it to learn my family history from all sides and pass them on to my children (who knows - maybe some of us are related!) and to go and visit their graves and honour my family.  We are all still connected.  The William and Augusta on this tombstone, my great-grandparents, were the original owners of the dining room set we eat at every evening and had that set and our bedroom furniture made when they were first married.  My son's middle name is Augusta's maiden name, Turner.

In the end, we will all be in quiet corners like Harold and Russell, once we have finished our adventures here, and the written and oral sharing of our family histories become ballast to us while we are here.  Our ancestor's ability to overcome and survive great tragedy, our ability to overcome and survive great tragedies, become the stuff of pride and legend for ourselves and our children and someday our great-grandchildren.  When we honour the dead in our family, we are honouring their gift of life to us.  I have made a promise to myself to go every summer to see my parents and grandparents.  Now I have added these two young boys to my visiting list.  Augusta would be very happy.

Sorry if this post seems morbid.  It seems lovely to me, but then I am the sort that is digging through abandoned graveyards on Saturday mornings..

Have a wonderful Monday and stay safe out there!

29 comments:

  1. How coincidental! We were celebrating my niece's birthday and most of the conversation for the evening was on tracing family trees and sharing stories going back generations. I love the history of your dining room table.

    Not morbid at all. The maple leaf and moss with Russell's marker are perfectly lovely. That's how I'd want to be in my quiet corner.

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    1. those are such great ways to spend an evening! we drew an impromptu family tree so that my SIL could show us the difference between second cousins and first cousins, once removed!

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  2. I love graveyards, from the big ones like Highgate in London which makes a great day out to old abandoned ones, I love looking at the stones and inscriptions, and taking a moment to think about the person who once lived. Ah, that maple leaf is perfect.

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    1. They are lovely, aren't they? I am definitely going back in August to find Harold and to clean them up, though I will dress a little better!

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  3. My husband has a family cementary that one day I will have a marker. My FIL has taken us there many times and recounted the stories of those buried there...some are not fond memories. To be loved here on earth and to be remembered in some way after our passing. Bless you for helping calm my mind and put life into focus for a moment this morning. The hurriedness of my day will soon start but peaceful I am at this early hour.

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    1. Well BB - I hear you! I am now back in the fray and all of the housework and errands and writing I have ignored for a week is all here! Have a fabulous one!

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    2. Forgot to tell you, I found a new blog...The Vivienne Files blogspot...that you may enjoy. She does "age" appropriate (God we are old) clothings capsules. I was bored yesterday and spent a few hours on her sight. Hope you enjoy.

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    3. Oh I am off to visit! thanks!

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  4. Hey,

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    Keep in touch
    www.beingbeautifulandpretty.com

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  5. PLACE MARKED WMM, used to hear that poem regularly at Emily Dickinson college services, but haven't thought of it for ages. Thank you.

    I find it rather wonderful when cemetaries become (thoughtful) traveller visits - Halifax and Titanic, Pere Lachaise, etc. Some part of all of us grapples with who we are, where we came from and how we will end.

    A couple of days ago, I read about 13,700-year-old flowers, sage and mint, lining graves at an ancient burial site in Israel in LA Times online.

    Traditions and roots have all kinds of meanings. Russell and Harold, their neighbours, will be remembered well.



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    1. 13,700 year old flowers! wowza! Wonder how many people try to take cuttings from them????

      It is a nice thing to visit family, wherever they are, isn't it?

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    2. I believe it was seeds, fossilized remnants etc. in cave graves, not flowers you can pick. But I did find it weirdly wonderful that mankind has been looking at similar ways to honour passing for that many endless generations.

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  6. Beautiful post, Wendy. My family is quite interested in our past, and I spent a great deal of time on childhood family trips hunting for family stones in various tiny graveyards. I kind of "got it" then, and I really get it now. Lately we've been tracking down living relatives both in the Old Country and the New, and it has all been quite wonderful.

    I am glad that you had such a meaningful weekend.

    And on a more frivolous note, I hope you'll show us updated closet pictures :)

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    1. Hi Abby - am getting there on closet and will post an updated photo this week for sure!

      It is nice to know your family history and go visit these meaningful places.

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  7. This is lovely. How fortunate too that you know so much of your family's history and that you can visit these places, these connections to the past really keep us grounded and grateful don't they!
    Thanks for sharing it with us, hope your week is having a good beginning.

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    1. well, it gets more complicated on the other side, so I am starting more slowly there! it is never easy! I have subscribed to ancestry.ca and that is helping quite a bit!

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  8. Hi Wendy, this is a very lovely post and I think it's wonderful that you know so much about your family history. My mum did not talk about her family very much (my grandparents died when I was still a child) and my father was from another land and died himself when rather young. I'm sure your kids were very interested to hear the stories of their forebearers.

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    1. Hi Patricia!

      You will probably end up as a private detective tracking yours down, which can be fund as well, but does take some patience!

      I am not sure how interested the kids are yet, but at least I am putting it together for them!

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  9. I think kids eventually are very interested. I have a lot of info from my side as all the little Swedish churches kept meticulous birth/marriage/death records. MLane's side has zero clue so the kids may have to research. We had a little historic graveyard on our property in SNE; we cleaned it up, planted some daffodils and righted some of the stones. It was sobering to see several young family members die within a few days, likely in a outbreak of something like measles.

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    1. Yes, we found all kinds of stones with children under the age of two years on them. Heartbreaking.

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  10. What a sad little gravestone. I'm glad that you found it and will be able to give it some tlc. Oh, DO become a famous authoress!
    Himself and I always wander round graveyards when we are on holiday, they are fascinating places, with a real sense of history. Favourites include the one in Corfu town, full of wild orchids in the springtime, Chagall's tomb in St Paul de Vence and the island cemetery in Venice. I always take a few flowers for Siegfried Sassoon's grave when we visit Mells.

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    1. I think that taking flowers to graves is such a lovely gesture - so romantic... Okay - will become a famous authoress! Only thing separating me from that is well, being published! :-)

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  11. Wendy, this is lovely and not morbid at all. In my tradition, memory constitutes the afterlife. as long as people say your name you are still alive. You have certainly done that for those in your family. I'd love to hear more about your ancestors!

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    1. Thanks AB! Hang around long enough and you are likely to get sick of them all!

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  12. Thank you for telling me the story about Augusta.It must have been so hard for her. Our cemetery also needed some T.L.C. and somebody came up with a brilliant idea. They contacted all the relatives of the deceased and asked for a donation each year.Then they pick a date in the Spring and have a service for everyone there. It's about 30 minutes and then it's picnic time. We bring lunch and sit on blankets.It was such a hit and now has become the perfect resting place.

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    1. Marsha - that is such a great idea! They are such old and abandoned graves - I think the latest grave is around 1905, so there may not be many descendents that even know about it. I will definitely look into that possibility!

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  13. It's not morbid at all. You paid a beuatiful tribute to your family with your great writing. Thank you for sharing. It was all very visual in my mind with how you described everything. I, too, am sentimental and fully support you :)

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Kindness is a virtue...