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Friday, March 9, 2012

'Til Death Do Us Part (Part 1)

An old New England cemetery

I am a graverobber.  I spent the morning in the cemetery robbing graves.  I was not removing remains, treasures or anything that might be construed as having a tangible value.  I was stealing ideas. From the names, dates and epithets that appeared on the tombstones, I started to construct pasts. With the freedom that comes from having no boundaries imposed by reality, I could tell any story I chose about the deceased and their families.  I spent nearly an hour pondering the engravings, reflecting on the lives of the departed, noting spelling errors and considering how word usage and customs have changed with time.  of the many observations I made and photographed, there is one overwhelming truth.  Whether it was 1766, 1804, or 1933, these husbands and wives, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers were loved.  I was moved by the stories I could piece together.  Perhaps the one that struck closest to my heart was the losses of Mehitabel and Martin Graves. Both of their daughters, Submit and Abilgail, died.  Abigail died on Christmas, 1788.  She was only four.  The mournful loss of a child during a season of celebration must have been full of anguish.  The burial in a hard, frozen ground must have been difficult.  Yet, the couple conceived again.  They must have greeted the pregnancy with joy.  They named their daughter Submit.  She died on February 5, 1793 at five days of age. It is easy to imagine the birth and anguished death of their daughter just five days after her delivery. The funeral, in the dead, cold of winter must have been inutterably difficult. The church is a quarter mile from the cemetery.  The long walk on a snowy winter day must have left the Graves drained and devastated. I took another four steps and came across the marker for Mehitabel Graves who died at age 86.  Her husband's, Martin’s, stone was beside hers.  He died before her, leaving her to live out her old age in widowhood.  

The return to to the world of the living.

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