On Thursday afternoon, I went to visit Clifton Cemetery. One of the oldest in the county, the cemetery sits nestled on top of a hill surrounded by trees and fields. It’s a peaceful place, as most homes of the dead usually are, largely forgotten and easily passed if you don’t know where you’re going.
The oldest graves are huddled together in theright hand corner while the newer ones tends to start in the middle and go back. Some of the oldest graves date back to around 1813. Some of the stones stood sentry for so long the engraved words had washed away with age and replaced with a brown covering.
It’s interesting to see how death customs have changed, just by looking at a cemetery. On some of the older gravestones, the person’s age was written down to the precise month and day.
The saddest ones were of course the babies and children. Some of the babies died the same day they were born (stillborn, perhaps?) while another child was merely 6 years old, the statue of a lamb keeping watch over the tiny form.
The two most interesting ones were of two men, both born in the late 1700’s (as well as father and son, from what I presume from their ages and common last name). One had fought during the American Revolution while the other had fought in the War of 1812. It’s one thing to read about history, but another thing entirely when standing in front of a grave (or even relics from the time period), to have it physically and all too realistically jump out and touch you, bringing the people who lived and fought during those times into reality.
We all must die, of course, and going to a cemetery can cause it to slap you in the face. But cemeteries, especially older ones, can help connect us to the past, to remind us that those who come before can and are affecting us now in the present.