As a participant in the InstaWrimo Challenge on Instagram (in preparation for this years NaNoWriMo,) I needed to provide an "inspirational photo" on Day 3. That was easy enough, but I wanted to be able to explain WHY it was inspiring, and this post is that - so I moved it over here.
(Originally posted October 5, 2017)
The only thing haunting the graveyard this afternoon is me.
It’s been close to eighteen years since I last roamed the paved throughways between the headstones and monuments. Today’s adventure was completely coincidental – or serendipitous, if you prefer. I just happen to be house-sitting this week. The route to my “city” “job” from the house where I am staying just happens to take me through a town I’ve not lived in for ages – the town I lived in before moving to Georgia. And in that town, when you turn right at the light and go down past the Comic Book Palace and the bowling alley and the AmVets Hall and a little ways further across from the school … there is a cemetery. The cemetery. My cemetery.
It’s actually Saint Someone-or-other’s Cemetery, but I never paid attention. I didn’t today either. I had footsteps to retrace, monuments to touch, tears to shed, and pictures to take. It was the best possible day, the best possible time of day, the best possible season. Cemeteries are at their very best in autumn, I think. I parked Abby (my car) out of the way, took a deep breath, and started walking. It was muscle memory from then on.
And it was all there. The veteran’s section, with the guardian tree slowly devouring the sign which warns against off-season decorations, and low stones in rows under the branches.
The lone grave off by itself in a forgotten corner, revealed on inspection to be that of Reuben, possibly a Dad, who died on May 7, 187? – aged 24 years. Rueben is off to the side of the ancient section, where what stones or markers have survived are spaced far, rarely upright, and often broken. Most are illegible. There is tragic loveliness to be found amidst the disarray.
I would walk these roads for hours – for fitness, perhaps, for fresh air, or time alone. With my portable CD player in hand, Matchbox Twenty’s Yourself or Someone Like You on repeat in my ears, I would walk from the street to Reuben’s stone, then turn left and climb the pathless hill to turn right onto the ‘real’ road. Down and around to the left and back up, past the newer graves on the right which remain peaceful in spite of the beer cans and used condoms strewn amongst the dead flowers and faded flags. There would be a gentle strain on my legs and lungs as I moved up past the endless Irish names, flocks of stones gathered beneath their pastor’s own monument, marked by their Irish county of origin. The streets are named for churches, I think, or Saints. Maybe both.
At the top of the hill, so close to the adjacent neighborhood I can hear the children playing inside, is the Ryan monument. She stands with her head bowed, holding a wreath – every sculpted crease and fold of her face and robes is accentuated by lichen and shadow. Daniel Ryan was just 18 when he died on February 15, 1890 while trying to save the life of his friends, the stone tells the reader – it won’t for much longer, the words are fading quickly under the elements. The monument was erected in testament to his “heroic courage and manly spirit.” Now it stands watch over a utility shed.
My heart beats faster as I round the corner – I’m getting closer. I can lie and says she wasn’t why I came, but it wouldn’t do any good. Every part of me anticipates her, now as it did so many years ago when she was my “lap marker” of sorts. And there she is. The sun finds and brightens her as it always has. Her wing is still broken – it wasn’t when I first met her. I remember being so sad when I returned after one winter to find the wing on the ground, propped beside her. It’s completely gone now. But the cherub beneath the birth and death dates of the children is new. It’s touching. Kitschy, but … I decide I approve.
The Feeney story has broken my heart since the day I read it. Patrick, born in Ireland, died on his birthday in 1882, just 38 years old. His wife Mary followed in 1889. In the years between, they had four children. Mary, born on Christmas Day in 1872, lived 2 years; Edward, born only two months after his sister’s death, survived just over a month. Catherine lived for 5 days in 1876, and Elizabeth, only a day in 1877.
The angel that stands guard over them has crossed arms, and her head is tilted as if she is looking at the sky. There is a star on her brow. A chain drips from her grasp, descending to an anchor tucked amongst the folds of her robe behind her left foot.
Anchors allegedly symbolize hope and either Christian or Masonic leanings, depending on your reference source – but all the reference pictures are of disconnected anchors, and the Feeney’s Angel – my angel, I adopted her the moment I met her – is holding on to hers. It is not a decoration, it is a part of her, she cradles the chain in her arms almost like a child. I’ve never seen another one like it – and I frequent cemeteries whenever I can, I love the peace and stillness to be found there, and the stories.
There was comfort in the return to this place, the feeling of walking the same roads I’d walked long before moving South. Their familiarity was welcoming, I felt very much like I belonged again, that I was where I needed to be.
(Spiritually, not literally.)
(Well a little bit literally, since this was the place I did 99% of the brainstorming and problem solving for Melody’s Song, my as-yet-unpublished magnum opus that I’m currently carving into a trilogy because no one buys 450 page novels from new authors these days.)
(Anymore. I know, Sword of Shannara was a new author’s first work and it got published, but that was in the 80s and as I recall it was accepted on a dare so hey, publishers, I dare you to buy my book.)
In conclusion, I apologize for the lack of Supernatural gifs. Please accept these graveyard photos instead.