Yesterday’s walk led me to a new place that I had not explored before. While little Miss Thistle enjoyed her ballet lesson, the littlest Thistle and I took a stroll in the late afternoon sun. Despite the warm weather we have had, there were still snow piles (albeit dirty and sad looking) to be found. With forty-five minutes to spare, and Little Thistle strapped into his baby carrier, I set off into a nearby cemetery where I walked two laps around the perimeter before settling in to read the headstones.
As an historian, I find that graveyards are fascinating places with many stories to tell. This particular graveyard was not terribly old. Most of the stones dated, at the earliest, to the beginning of the 20th century. As such, many of the occupants were born in the 1830s – 1890s, a period of which I have done considerable study. It was interesting to imagine these people in life: Fannie, George, Baby Marlin, Faye.
Two stones caught my eye in rapid succession. On the first, I saw the dates of a husband and wife. He died at the age of 31, while she went on to live another 67 years. Several rows over, I found a similar tale: The husband passed at age 31, while his slightly younger wife lived into her late 90s, surviving him by 74 years. I thought of these women, and what their lives may have been like. Did they remarry? (By the indicators on the stones, they did not). Did they have children or family nearby? How did they make their way, and what sorts of things filled their days? On any given day, my thoughts are filled with questions about people from the past, and today was no exception.
As I walked with the weight of Little Thistle’s lolled-over sleeping head in my left hand, I was grateful for the pleasant weather and the opportunity to visit with these people from the past. Today’s walk was different, but that’s the beauty of walks: You can’t take the same one twice if you try. When I visit again, I’m sure other things will arrest my attention, but today’s discoveries were unique to the day.
Some find it a morbid occupation, but I enjoy investigating older gravestones. Have you ever explored a cemetery?