Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs

November 2 is All Souls' Day, the day we remember the dead. Because of my many years as a Hospice nursing assistant, I have lots and lots of dead folks to remember in addition to my own family members, so I like to sit in a quiet place and let my memories of them rise to mind. And what better place to do this than sitting on my own grave? We have plots in a cemetery close to my home, so my grave is easy to get to. It's a pleasant spot on a sloping hillside, the ground covered with fragrant Wild Thyme, and a huge old Norway Spruce waving its drapery of needles over the site.

You might think that this exercise is only sad and somber, but it's actually full of happy moments as I call to mind the folks I befriended in their final illnesses. One fellow had me take him out to hunt for wild mushrooms, and another taught me some bawdy music-hall songs. I still prepare Christmas cookies from a recipe one woman copied for me, and another woman regaled me with tales from Saratoga's speak-easy past. In short, we shared far more laughs than tears, although we shared those, too. My experience walking among the gravestones today was similar. Of course, it was sad to come upon the grave of one little boy who must have loved his kitty.

But I had to laugh, when I took a close look, to see that little mouse curled up on top of the cat.

Lots of gravestones bore images of things that had made the departed happy while they lived. This lady must have loved bowling.

A horse-racing fan must lie here.

Somebody's idea of Heaven must be to have Christmas morning every day forever and ever.

Let's hope that Charles is spending eternity riding his motorcycle around Paradise.

I laughed out loud to see this bottle of whiskey rendered in granite,

but then my laugh caught in my throat when I noticed how young this Dad was when he died. Did his children mean this gravestone to be a tribute? Or a warning?

Somebody else had an odd sense of humor, decorating a gravesite with a worm!

Now here's a good example of wish fulfillment: Every headline and story that fills this front page of the Saratogian newspaper is about the fellow buried beneath, the owner and publisher of the paper from 1900 until his death in 1933. The reversed and worn print is pretty hard to make out, but I did manage to read that Mr. Walbridge died at his desk.

Before leaving the cemetery I returned to my grave and stretched out on the grass to gaze at the lovely blue sky, breathing in the scent of thyme and spruce needles, and offering prayers of gratitude that I am still above ground.

Turning my head I noticed this little thyme sprig in bloom. Hey, it's way past the season for thyme to be in bloom! Searching around, I found no other sprigs with flowers on them. Maybe it was sent as a sign that my many friends from my Hospice years are also remembering me.


Ellen Rathbone said...

How sweet and sad. There are some real treasures in that cemetery. Sure beats the ones that are designed merely for ease of upkeep.

Virginia said...

I love all the moods of the piece. Such a great overriding hospice perspective of death as part of life. Very nice.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comments, Ellen and Virginia. Every time I visit this cemetery I find something new, either to amuse me or cause me to pause. On the day of this post's visit, I met the step-father of a young man who had died of ocular melanoma, a rare disease. We stood by his child's grave and talked about how the items decorating the grave reflected this young man's life. One item was a CD of his favorite band, the Smashing Pumpkins.

Lizzy said...

Wow, this was a really moving post, Grandma.
Makes me want to go look at the gravestones in the cemetery near me. Thanks for sharing.

Laura Chin said...

Caring for my sisters grave was a big part of my grieving process. Today was her birthday and I'll head out there to visit! Your post about grave decor made me laugh when I thought about how I decorated for each season :)
I linked to my blog with my sisters fall decorations the first year after she died. http://mychinnychinchin.blogspot.com/2007/10/karens-fall-decorations.html