Sunday, January 30, 2011

All in the Interpretation...

How do we remember our loved ones that have left this life?  For some, photos of happier times. For others, such as those in some Amish communities across our country who don't utilize photographs, they simply hold tight to the memories and Funeral Cards with information about the deceased.  In many cases, we remember our loved ones and mark their existence with beautiful headstones. Over time, our headstones have changed. In the colonial era, we utilized the skull and cross bones, or winged skulls.  At the height of the Victorian Era, we found ourselves building tall obelisks, beautiful urns, and deeply symbolic but community minded markers.  The bigger the better. Now, as we walk through memorial parks we see simpler, smaller, flat stones.  Occasionally at cemeteries we'll see photos or etchings on granite.

But all of these types of markers cost money.  What then, for those who can't afford or choose not to memorialize with large stones?  Does it make the life of those passed any less important?  Hardly.  In fact, as this Graveyard Rabbit wanders through cemeteries it is the simpler stones that often catch my eye. 

At Andrew's Chapel Cemetery in Durham, NC, a cemetery I've been longing to stop at for 3 years, what made me stop and pause were not the fancier stones, but in fact the simple crosses made of PVC pipe that marked a handful of graves.  Who were these folks that were left behind by a simple symbol that equals hope, love and resurrection for millions of citizens around the world?  Not one of the graves marked by the PVC pipe crosses had any indicator of who was interred below.  In fact, next to one cross was a small marker left behind by the funeral home, but the name had long worn off.

While of course, many stones through out the ages have merely one symbol on them, a fish, a wedding ring, shaking hands, a hand pointing up etc which tells us something about the individual, the row of PVC pipe crosses struck me as different.  While still a description of the person as the examples of above, the cross, with no name, no birth or death dates, no epitaphs, simply tell us one thing about the individual. 

If you could be memorialized by one symbol what would it be?  I wondered that as I left Andrew's Chapel Cemetery this afternoon?  Would it be a cross, like many of the individuals interred there?  I think mine may have a book... but 200 years after I'm gone, as a graveyard rabbit explores my final resting place, what will they think of that symbol? How will they interpret me? 

More on Andrew's Chapel Cemetery in the days to come.... Happy Sunday!

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