A Writer's Journey

July 2, 2012

Hanging in the Cemetery

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

One of the older headstones at St. Joseph’s Cemetery

Toward the end of April, my mother turned to me at dinner and said, “So, you’re going to the cemetery cleanup, right?”

I paused, mid-bite. “I am?” The slice of pizza hit the paper plate. “There’s a cleanup tomorrow?”

There was and my mother needed me to watch the 7th graders showing up to complete their Confirmation service hours. I agreed despite the early wakeup call it required.

There is usually a cemetery cleanup twice a year. It’s my parish’s and we need to maintain it. This year’s cleanup wasn’t well announced at the Masses or in the bullentin, so turnout was poor. Most of those who did were the 7th graders I was watching and there were only seven of them.

Since it was a mild winter, there wasn’t much to clean up. It was mostly yard work. I set the boys up with rakes and bags. The men from the Holy Name Society gave them tasks to do. And I took a rake myself and climbed to the back of the cemetery.

One of my favorite reasons to go to the cleanup is the history in our cemetery. Our church was built in 1848 and the cemetery opened in the 1860s. You can imagine how old some of those tombstones are. I found one from 1865 on my first cleanup. It had fallen from natural causes and I had to wipe dirt away to read it.

That first clean up, a volunteer came with a print out of all the veterans buried in the cemetery. A group of us 20-somethings who had volunteered went on a search with him. We found a few veterans. Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, etc. There were a few tombstones I cleaned around where the young man died on a battlefield. The only thing to do was pause and reflect on his sacrifice. Also on the tombstones were ranks proudly engraved by men who had served our country.

The church was built due to the hard work of Irish immigrants who settled on the island. So walking through the cemetery—particularly the back where the old graves are—one spots many familiar Irish names: Kennedy, Sullivan, Meara, etc. These names can also be found on the stained glass windows of our little church. Counties of birth are listed, meaning they immigrated to the US.

And there are more and more. Though there is something weird about apologizing to someone for tripping over their relatives’ graves.



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