Monday, November 3, 2008


Today's Wonder of the World is...Old Cemeteries.

I don't know about you, but I love old cemeteries.
I've been thinking about cemeteries ever since church yesterday. We celebrated All Saints Sunday, which meant that our minister read out the names of those in the congregation who had died during the year, and family and friends stood in their honor. There was also a time for people to stand and say the name of anyone else they loved who had passed away since our last All Saints service. It was a sad but sweet service, and very meaningful.

All Saints Day was a big deal in France--sort of like the French Thanksgiving, in that people traveled to be with their families and eat a big meal together. They would lay flowers at the graves of their loved ones, and spend family time together, telling stories and remembering.

This might sound gloomy to you, but Todd and I used to enjoy pushing Sam in his stroller through one of Clermont's city cemeteries after lunch. (Yey French two hour lunch breaks!) After we moved home I wished I had taken pictures, but thanks to a Flickr friend, here it is...

Flickr photo by connyyeah
As you can see, it's beautiful!

Now that we're back in South Carolina, we're lucky now to have a beautiful old cemetery right within a stone's throw of our neighborhood. (See the first photo.) About 160 years ago, when cows roamed the pasture that is now our subdivision, a textile mill was built just down the river. The mill owners thought the workers should have a place to worship and built a Methodist church, and over the many years the congregation and the cemetery grew.

It's not as peaceful as it used to be. Nineteen years ago, when we first moved into the neighborhood, it was still out in the country. You hardly ever saw a car unless it was turning in to our subdivision. Now that Greenville and Greer have grown like crazy, we're practically in the middle of things.
Still, the cemetery feels quiet, even with cars rushing by.

The stones are beautiful. I always wonder about the families and their stories.

Usually I don't rant too much in this blog. (I save it for my sweet husband. Poor thing.)
I like to stay positive. Besides, this blog is about wonders, isn't it?
But...(here it comes)
Allow me to show you a maddening wonder.
It's not wonderful at all, though it used to be.

Just down the road about two miles from my house used to be the most beautiful family cemetery. I never even noticed it during our first two years in Greer because it was encircled by five or six huge old oak trees.
Here it is up close.

Two years ago, they started building all around it. First there was a CVS. Then a mini-strip mall, then a Walgreen's.
And then, last spring, they cut down all those big beautiful trees. They only left a couple, in the distance.

They put up a chain link fence around the tiny cemetery, as if that would protect it.

And here's the new neighbor on the other side. It's Walmart.

Now, I'm not really railing against Walmart. (Even though there's a perfectly good one about a mile and a half down the highway.) I'm just sad. This used to be a beautiful peaceful place and it's not anymore.

Okay. Enough of that. I think I'd like to cheer myself up now.
I know. Let's look at some other interesting cemeteries.
I believe I've shown you the one in Corsica, but here it is again, in case you missed it.

And here's the one in Normandy, where my grandfather is buried.

And last, but not least, a cemetery in Salzburg Austria.

Flickr photo by rotraud 71
I love that they plant flowers on their graves!
Not a bad use for the body left behind... flower food!

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!

Love, Becky


TattingChic said...

The all saints sunday service sounds like a very nice, bittersweet way to remember our loved ones who have passed on. Shame about the cemetery near where you live. The european photos of cemeteries are lovely and look like they are well cared for.

Sherry Martschink said...

We celebrate All Saints Sunday in our church, as do most Lutheran congregations, as well as some others.
Very interesting post.

JaxPop said...

Old Cemeteries - I love walking through them & thinking about what kind of life stories could be told.

Military cemeteries make me especially sad. I always tear up.

I can't make myself visit my Dad's gravesite, but that's another story.

Your grandfather (if that's a pic of his grave) died on my B'day.

When I was 11 - I camped out (illegally) in a cemetery as part of a dare - happens to be the same one where my Dad is buried.

Great post as always.

LW said...

Last Sunday I spent the afternoon at a very old cemetery a few miles from my home with my 19-year-old son. He came home for the weekend to work on an archaeology class project.
Each of his team had to find and list the information from 25 headstones dated before
1880. I went along to help measure and take the pictures of the stones. Together we read epitaphs and
talked about the families that lost so many children. I think cemeteries give a realty to our history, there was several soldiers buried in this small cemetery. I will never forget the look on my son face as he read the tombstone of a civil war soldiers who was 19 years old…


PS...I am so sorry about the small family plot near you..that is very sad.

Suzie said...

Id like to be flower food someday. Id rather that than building motor for a Targets

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Both times I stayed in London I was next to the most wonderful moldy old cemetery--so peaceful and lovely. I enjoy coming across the small rural ones on country roads and the grand old ones in cities like New Orleans.

Your poor little cemetery. That makes me so sad.

CC said...

I loved old cemeteries when I lived in New England. The dates fascinated me. They aren't nearly as interesting here in the NW.

adrienne said...

I love old cemetaries. My only pet peeve is all the artificial flowers. They look so sad once they've been gathering dirt for a while. The ones with little garden plots are beautiful.

Susan said...

I love cemeteries. I went as a small child to our local cemetery and could spend hours reading the names and dates, and realizing some of them were my age when they passed. It made me appreciate life all the more. This was a lovely post.

Rosemary said...

Very cool!! I have done 2 recent posts with old cemeteries!!
They are really works of art!

Kat said...

I live about a block away from a beautiful cemetary and we take walks through it on a regular basis. It is so peaceful. I just love it.

ABB said...

There is something rather sad and special about cemeteries, and it's interesting how different they can be in different parts of the world. If ever in London, you must pre-book a tour to visit Highgate. Lots of authors use it for inspiration or research.

Bobbie said...

Yay! Cemeteries. Okay, here's my story: My best friend and I in junior high used to go for long, long walks after school, and we often ended up in a cemetery across the street from where she lived. I loved it because it was quiet and I could spend days looking at old tombstones, imagining the stories of the people laid beneath them. So one afternoon we were walking and I saw a man in the woods bordering the cemetery. When he saw us, he started chasing at us, yelling at us. I thought we were in trouble for walking around and didn't want to have to explain myself to him. So I pulled my friend by the arm and we high-tailed it out of there.

She was nearly in tears by the time we got out of the gate. I asked her what was wrong--aside from the man yelling at us--and she said she hadn't seen any man or heard anyone yelling at us. "He was right there," I told her. "About 20 feet from us. How could you not have heard him?" She was crying because she said a woman was chasing us--a woman *I* hadn't seen that was nearly at our heels as we ran out.

We didn't go for walks there after that. But I still adore cemeteries and am disappointed by the "modern" ones with the plaques flat in the ground. It seems so wrong not to have the stones upright, ready to age and crumble.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Have you ever visited Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah? I really love that one!

May Vanderbilt said...

Oh I love old cemeteries in the South, especially when they have old oak trees with Spanish moss beards.

And I totally know what you mean about the development. It's like that awesome Joni Mitchell song. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot...

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Jaxpop, yes, that cross is my granddad's. And it's my mother's b-day and my son Ben's!

Folks, I've enjoyed hearing your cemetery stories. I'd love to take a graveside tour.

Barb said...

Hi Becky,

I love old cemeteries too. All those stories that lay buried.

How sad, that little cemetery surrounded by the chain fence. It is a real crime.