Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gone, but not quite forgotten

This past weekend our family drove up to Floyd, Virginia -- a small community in southwestern Virginia that is inhabited partly by farmers and partly by people with a definite artsy flair. While in our room (yes, Floyd has a newly built hotel with all of ten rooms and five suites!), I glanced out the window and discovered an old cemetery at the back of the hotel.

I must confess that I am a lover of old cemeteries. If given the opportunity, I would stop at every country church that even hints of old limestone markers and plenty of moss and lichen. I enjoy tracing family histories through adjoining headstones, and imagining what these people were like as I read their epitaphs.

Consequently, the next morning I dressed early so that I might go out and explore. The fog and mist of the previous day still lingered over the town, casting the perfect atmosphere for a graveyard prowl. While the little cemetery behind the hotel did not provide much in the way of family connections, there was more than enough moss, fungi, and undergrowth to delight me.

I could not even read the earliest stones, and many of them had fallen into disrepair:

I could not find a single tombstone with a date past the 1880's. This stone captured my interest and my imagination. I wonder who Emmazetta was, and why she died at the age of 26? Did she die in childbirth, or of the dread disease of consumption?

A confident reminder that the grave was not the final destination of the loved one lying there:

A clean, white headstone marked the grave of Abner Lester, Jr., a colonel in the 54th regiment of the Virginia Infantry:

This lovely stone marked the grave of Isabell, a baby who died at only a year and a half old:

The little babe is gone to rest,
To dwell with God, forever blest.
Its infant tongue will always praise
A Saviour's love, redeeming grace.

Although there is undeniable charm in these overgrown, forgotten cemeteries, I feel a pang of regret that in most cases the only ones left to remember them are people like me -- people who respect their memory, but who are drawn out of curiosity rather than familial love. I know that those who lie in the cemetery are past caring whether their earthly resting places are neglected or not, but there is still a sense of loss.

Cemeteries are often associated with death, and understandably so -- but each of the people there lived, for however brief a time. And it is in their lives, not their death, that the true story lies.


  1. Oooh, I also enjoy old cemeteries, especially ones with lots of trees and old, old stone markers. Others may think it's morbid, but I just think it's fascinating. I love the shots of moss and lichen -- essential to any picturesque graveyard!

  2. I found your blog off of someone else's and like the post about the old cemetary. I like old cemetaries too. It's interesting to read the names. Near our home there's an old meeting house with a cemetary. It has some gravestones of people who fought in the Revolutionary War. Unfortunatly, vandals have knocked over and damaged some of the stones.


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