I love graveyards for all that they tell us, for the lives they hint at and the peace they promise every single denizen. I suppose part of it’s that prurient fascination we all have with tragedy. The reason Old Yeller’s a classic; why people love to read Nicolas Sparks or Jodi Piccoult and listen to sad country songs; sometimes you just want to cry.
Stone is a beautiful medium.
Every tombstone’s a sculpture with a story. Some speak more artfully than others, but it’s often the most crudely carved that tell the best tales.
I like the colors and patterns of lichen on white marble. I like pictures of the deceased embedded in the stones. I like glossy new markers with sharp edges and old ones with quaint, old fashioned names.
What sparks my imagination in new and old are the hints they tell about the relationships left behind. What happened to the family of a row of children who all died in the same year? How much must a man have loved his wife when she died three decades before him, but he still chose to be buried beside her?
I ran across one way out in the country the other day. It was a small cemetery on a hill thrust up from among soybean and corn fields. There were about a hundred people buried there. The most recent grave was less than a decade old, a double stone. A boy, 13 years old, was buried on the right, “beloved son.” On the left was his “loving father.” The father’s name was there, his birth date, but no death date. No mom. Toy race cars and new silk flowers lay on the boy’s side. Dad’s side was clean, empty. Somewhere, here in my world, Dad was waiting for the day he’d see his son again.
Doesn’t that make you wonder? It’s amazing how much a few words, a trinket or two and couple of dates in stone can convey about a life, and a death.
Kearney Missouri, a town of only 10,000 boasts three nice, old cemeteries.
The notorious outlaw Jessie James is buried (reburied and DNA verified) in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. If you’re into that kind of tombstone tourism, definitely check it out. Kearney’s not shy about claiming its fallen son. Visit his family farm nearby. There’s a Jesse James festival every summer and a gorgeous park in town named after him.
Mount Olivet, Kearney, Missouri
A few blocks from Mt. Olivet is, Fairview Cemetery.
Nobody famous or infamous buried here as far as I could tell. It’s still in town, but off the main drag. Mature trees and pastures border three sides. Nice spot.
Before you head out of town, stop for a great cuppa here at Mojo’s.
This cemetery is one of my favorites and close to home in Kearney, Missouri.
Muddy Forks Cemetery my favorite discovery near Kearney, is just 1.7 miles north of town on Hwy 33.
I just love the name! There aren’t any forks in the road here, muddy or otherwise, so I can’t tell you how it came to be called that.
It’s up on a hill, bordered on all sides by wire fences and pasture land, a great, quiet place to sit under a shady tree and watch the world go by. There are over 400 people buried here, one famous resident, Clellend Miller, was a member of the James gang. Otherwise it’s just regular folks.
I often wonder when I find these little cemeteries out in the middle of nowhere, who gets buried there nowadays. It’s a tiny place. They’d have to be kind of selective about newcomers or they’d over-run the pasture in no time.
Maybe there’s not much demand for spots here, but I can’t imagine why not. I think it’d be a great place to rest in peace.
I’ve been obsessed with cemeteries since I organized
my first funeral.
When I was a kid, one of several fishes my sisters and I kept in a freshwater aquarium died. Since we didn’t care about him much, he didn’t really even have a name. Until we found him belly-up. Then he had to have a name – for the TOMBSTONE.
Deciding on Flashy, we made a sparkly, little casket out of aluminum foil lined with a folded square of soft, pink toilet paper. With me leading the way, I was the oldest, we carried his body slowly, in procession through the living room, the kitchen, out the back door.
At the graveside, we sang swing low, sweet chaaar-ri-ah-aht! Words were said – sad, respectful ones about Flashy’s tragically short life.
We discussed the six-feet-under concept, but our mother convinced us — I believe her exact words were, “No, you will NOT dig a six foot hole by the back patio!” — that six inches would be more than enough for a creature Flashy’s size.
We buried him under the Skunk bush. That was our nickname for a rare and gorgeous species of Azalea that blooms a brilliant orange, but has the unfortunately pungent scent of skunk.
Flashy wouldn’t mind the smell. We marked his final resting place with a Popsicle-stick-cross beautified with crayon. There may have been tears, but I don’t think so. The feeling I remember most about the whole affair is glee.