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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Visiting Cemeteries

This Memorial Day I found myself at Saint Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Hamden, Connecticut (photo taken at Saint Mary's Cemetery). This is where a large part of my family is buried and most recently my grandfather who was a World War II Vet. Some people get uncomfortable at cemeteries and avoid them as much as they can, often preferring to attend a deceased persons wake rather than funeral so they won't have to go to the cemetery. I admit this can be hard, but I have always found comfort and a deep sense of peace in cemeteries. I am one of those people who actually likes to visit cemeteries at different times of the year and read grave stones contemplating the lives of those buried there. I can't help but feel sadness at the sight of a child's grave. Or wonder and thankfulness at the sight of a soldiers grave. When I see a grave marked "Mother" or "Father" I wonder about their families and the lives and memories they had together, the laughter and tears they shed as a family. For me, a cemetery is not just about the death of a person, but the wonder of the persons life and how they might have touched other lives. Have you ever walked in a cemetery and saw your family name and wondered how or if you were related to the person buried there? An unknown or never met relative? I visit cemeteries in other states during vacations or just weekend trips (with the price of gas these trips have unfortunately dwindled). I think the only cemetery I've visited that just overwhelmed me with sadness and shear awe was Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. I can't really give a better description for what I felt seeing that for the first time. It was overwhelming. My favorites, if you can say there is a favorite cemetery are the old ones. The really old ones scattered around New England. Probably one of the oldest I have visited is the Old Granary Burial Ground in Boston, Massachusetts. It's like stepping back in time walking thru there. Another cemetery I have enjoyed visiting is the Trinity Churchyard of the Trinity Church in NY located near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Here is where Alexander Hamilton is buried. We've got some nice old cemeteries here in Connecticut too. One that I have visited is the Old Durham Cemetery in Durham, CT. The oldest grave in this cemetery is dated 1712. Years ago we would do stone rubbings but most old cemeteries now forbid it as it could damage these old stones.
There's a Catholic tradition of crossing ourselves when we pass by a cemetery that my great grandmother taught me as a child. When I am thinking and notice a cemetery as I am driving I make sure to follow that Catholic tradition and I have taught my children to do it also. I'd love to hear from readers about cemeteries in their area's or cemeteries you've visited. Please share a comment or two about them or email me a story.

1 Sam. 2:6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up."
Eze. 37:13 "Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them."

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