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Friday, April 13, 2012

Leaving the dead behind

Traveling back from Florida, my lovely wife and I made a side trip to the Mid Hudson Valley area. That’s where my wife grew up, but we didn’t stop to visit any friends or relatives -no living ones anyway.

We stopped at the cemetery to pay our respects. The only close relatives that are still in the area are the ones who aren’t going anywhere. My wife’s family is scattered all over the world. The younger ones left for different opportunities. The older retired ones left to avoid high taxes.

Our first stop is always at my brother-in-law’s grave. He was still a teenager when he died in a boating accident. The guy was just then starting to grow into an interesting adult. I think I would have liked the man he was becoming. His gravestone shows a backpacker on a mountain top gazing at distance peaks and clouds. It was a sketch he’d done just before the accident. I’m glad it’s on his stone.

Then we visit the rest of those left behind: grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, classmates, and so on. My in-laws have a stone there too, but fortunately the death dates are still unwritten.

My wife knows her way around that marble orchard. I wonder if our kids will ever take the time to visit the graves. Will the grandkids feel enough connection to their past to want to stand there under the shade trees near the pond? Will they contemplate lives lived and then ended?

Will they wonder about the young man who sketched the backpacker?



  1. Will they even be able to make the trip? It could end up being a very long walk.

    I suspect, however, that in the future they will be very contemplative of the past.

  2. Marble orchard - I've never heard that expression before but it describes a graveyard very well. When I visit my Dad's grave and wife's parents, I often wonder who these people were and their familys. Some very well kept up with fresh flowers and attention to cleaning it up, others long neglected and unvisited - kind of sad, actually.

  3. Like Anon said, I too, have never heard that phrase but will sure use it from now on. The dead's past lives should be remembered and celebrated.

  4. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)April 13, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Several years ago during Americade, we side tripped to Bradford, NH to finally visit my
    Grandma's and Aunts grave. Very emotional as they had been gone for so many years. (The town's historical society helped us find the site).
    I remember spending summers on Grandma's farm, "Blueberry Hill" when I was a little girl. I treasure the picture of us standing together gathering flowers. No, I will never forget them.

  5. People are so geographically scattered it's a wonder they every find their physical roots. My youngest son has taken an interest in knowing about family geneology & freqently says, "How come you never talked about that?"

    I did but he was either too pre-occupied or not interested & now wish we "older" folks had written more down. My memoriy has faded & my father claims his has "mis-focused" to the point that he tells me about one person very accurately (as far as I know) while calling them by the last name from my mom's family.

    With the cost of funerals/burials I think we'll see fewer grave yards which means fewer connections to the past.

  6. I often do wonder about that young man hiking up the mountain. I'd really love to sit with Grandma and record stories from her life. And Grandpa, too. I do miss NY. That house was awesome.