Tuesday, August 5, 2008

You Might Think I'm Strange...

but, I like to visit graveyards, especially old ones. I find them neither creepy, nor scary.

It's a little sad sometimes, when I see the tiny stones marking the graves of infants. Or, come upon family stones and I surmise that disease must have visited the household since several members passed within days or weeks of each other.

Now that I'm older and know a little more history, the gravestones offer up clues to the lives of the deceased. I look for the connections between their deaths and the times in which they lived.

I marvel at the longevity of some of the early settlers--some who lived into their eighties and nineties at a time when life expectancy was probably less than 40 years.

Gravestone art is a whole other fascinating aspect of visiting graveyards. Every time period had its favored symbols--weeping willow trees, or fingers pointing heavenward. There are many websites you can visit to learn more about gravestone art and symbolism, click here for one.

I have no known relatives in this region, so my graveyard visits are simply ways to spend a pleasant afternoon. While doing research for Women of Granite, though, I went looking for the grave of one of the women I profiled, Mary Bradish Titcomb.

Mary was born in Windham, NH, and despite leaving the town for the adventure of living in the city-- Boston--she came back to Windham for her final resting place. I checked the cemetery records at the local library and noted where her grave was supposed to be, then a friend and I headed to the graveyard one sunny afternoon. It turned out to be easy to locate her grave, but grass and weeds had grown up around the original headstone, and the additional tribute stone that had been added some 40 years later. What else could I do but get down on my hands and knees and start pulling the weeds. After that I brushed away the dirt so that I could read the inscriptions and then, I took a picture.

I've located, maybe not by visiting, but in other ways, the gravesites of several of my profiled women. It has rounded out my research, and given me a feeling of connection to my subjects.

If you're looking for the grave of someone, here's a good place to start, www.findagrave.com.

Visit a graveyard--I won't think you're strange!

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