THE FAMILY COMPASS
by Judy Sheppard Huber
Family Compass Navigator
Every year as Halloween approaches I
am surprised and concerned about the attitude people have towards cemeteries.
Some people are afraid of cemeteries. They seem to think
there are ghosts, goblins and/or zombies among the stones. And we perpetuate
this attitude by telling stories about ghosts and zombies. In twenty years
of walking and recording cemetery information I have never met a ghost.
Other people think its fun to tip over stones and otherwise
deface the stones. The stones belong to the descendants of people buried under
them. I have never been as moved as when I stood at the foot of my great-great
grandparent's stone. Suddenly after years of genealogical research, they
became real people because their children cared enough to mark their final
I have heard about people that remove the stones. Even
putting them in their houses, on their fireplaces or use them as paving stones
in the garden. What a terrible disrespect! I wonder how they would feel if
someone took the stone off their great grandparents' graves! How are future
generation going to locate these graves without a stone?
Cemeteries are wonderful, history filled places
to me. Since I record the cemetery with a camcorder, I usually visit the cemetery
during good weather. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. As I walk
up and down the rows, I learn a lot about the people who are buried there.
There are lots of babies and young mothers. People stuck down in the prime
of their lives by accidents lie beside the elderly who lived long beyond the
There are big stones and lots of empty graves spaces
left for other family members who moved on to distant locations. There are
iron cross forged by the local blacksmith into pieces of art. There are flowers
left by people to say, "How much I miss you." Among the Bible verses there
are stones that tell a story of how tough life can be or how good it was.
One way to understand what cemeteries are about is to
visit one. There is nothing to be afraid of and so much to learn about. The
only problem I've found in cemeteries are the holes left by ground-living
Family Friday Project:
You may want to do this one in the daylight. Visit your
local cemetery. Can you find gravestones for past community leaders or at
least their last names? Find a stone with a lamb on it. What does the lamb
symbolize? Can you find a stone of a veteran? Is there a special place in
the cemetery for veterans? Is there anyone with your last name buried in this
cemetery? What does it mean when there are two names on one stone. Look for
a stone of someone who died before 1900. How are the stones of today different
that the older ones? Do any of the stones have a foreign language on them?
What is the language? What are some of the ethnic groups in your area? As
you walk or drive around the cemetery, do you see wild life? Is your cemetery
nicely cared for? Thank the people in charge of keeping the cemetery looking
nice. Did you see any ghosts? No? I hope you have learned to respect the
cemetery and teach others to care for the memories of lost ones.