Posts Tagged ‘history’

I like graveyards.  I should say, I like old graveyards.  Any graveyard over 100 years old  is a friendly thing, with the monuments and headstones telling the codas of  a lives long since finished. The thin slabs sit much higher than the newer ones, and are very difficult to mow around and keep up. There’s no room for a standing mower to zoom through and take care of the green grass growing over the plots. You have to take your time maintaining an old cemetery.

You have to slow down.

It’s the same way when you’re walking through the rows. You can’t rush, your body instinctively slows its gate as the uneven ground and leaning stones, like sleepy sentinels,  make progress tricky.  After the lunch (which was after the funeral),  I left the others still in the Little Red School House on the Vermont Technical College Campus and wandered outside with my camera. I’d glimpsed the graveyard from the upper windows of the building and wanted to go and see just how old it was.

All of its thin headstones gave me hope that it would be an older, established garden of the dead.   The sun, slanting through the trees huddled at the edges of the cemetery, drew sharp calligraphy shadows  from the markers as I wandered between the rows. I wasn’t disappointed. The first marker that caught my eye was a Celtic cross, heavily embossed with filigree, and softened with decades of wear.

The camera cut off the ‘j’ there in John, I believe,  but this imposing cross made me smile faintly. Not a lot of information on the person, all the attention is fixed on the cross. It made me wonder if that’s how they had lived too, deflecting attention to Christ and away from themselves. Maybe.

This one was a ‘joint’ tombstone. Carrie and Patrick  were born within a year of one another, made it through tremendous change in our country, and died within three years of one another.  Patrick was the younger of the pair too. I love finding little tidbits like that when I read tombstones. By my reckoning, Carrie made it to her 70’s and Patrick nearly to his 70’s.  I liked that their headstone highlighted their length of life and their belonging to one another.

There were several in the style of  this marker,  and I was a little uncertain about if this Jakob  DIED in 1801 or was BORN in RANDOLF in 1801.  It was interesting to see his home town so recorded and highlighted.  Why was it, I wonder? Was he  one of the original inhabitants of the town? Did he want to distinguish himself  from other transplants and outsiders that had come into the town later? If so, why?

This one made me grin. The lovely cross and scroll work had to cost more, but they made a very appealing ‘cap’ to the stone and set it apart from the others.  Her husband was mentioned, and the date of her death but no birth date. I was charmed both by the 96 years as well as the 10 months.   According to my math Mirriam was  born in 1775.  I stood a while with this one, just thinking about all the changes, heartaches, triumphs, and tragedies she made it through.

This was one of the most confusing grave markers in the cemetery. I couldn’t understand why  it had both of the men who had been her husbands listed on it.  Or why someone would choose to highlight the fact that she’d had two husbands.  It was a little perplexing until in my rambling I came back to her stone and then happened to look to the left, not the right of it and saw:

Lurena L. is buried not beside her second husband, but beside her first.   She lived another 22 years after she buried her husband  John Perrin and at some point, even married again taking  Walker Sandford as a spouse. And yet, she chose to be buried not beside her second husband but beside her first.  It was interesting to note that Lurena L. is also not mentioned on John Perrin’s tombstone.  I lingered here a while too, wondering if I was reading more drama in these interesting facts than there actually was.

I moved down the gentle slope leaving Lurena’s marker, weaving between the thin stone slabs that looked more and more as I walked, like collapsing dominoes. Near the fence, right past the small out building, I found a different kind of memorization all together. As far as I know, it’s the oldest one in the entire cemetery. And it made me catch my breath.

This one read: Memento Mori  In Memory of Thomas Pember,  son of Elijah and Hannah Pember, who was killed by the Indians in Rovalion  October 16th, 1780. Age 23 years  If this is accurate, Thomas Pember was born in 1757.  I don’t know if his body was interred here, or if his loving parents just bought a stone to mark his passing and had it placed here, but it is by far the oldest and saddest story I found in my wandering.

Ever taken a stroll through an older graveyard like this one? Or found stories in stone somewhere else? Let me know in the comments below. Also, anyone having any tidbits to share on the gravestones or markers (as in what style they are, what stone they are, what was the fashion of the time etc) feel free to post that as well in the comments.

Tomorrow  is St. Patrick’s Day,  which will be celebrated by people getting drunk and acting the fool while wearing green and yelling “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. What does this have to do with St. Patrick?  Not a single thing, and that is what makes me so sad,  and more than a little angry.

Here are some things that the world at large will not tell you about St. Patrick; most likely because they don’t know themselves.

1.) Patrick of Ireland wasn’t Irish. He was Welsh, and the son of a Noble family

2.) Patrick of Ireland was taken  by Irish raiders when he was 16 years old.  He was stolen away from his grandfather’s estate.

3.) Patrick  of  Ireland was a slave  for six years.  According to Patrick he was “naked, hungry, abused, and in terrible want” during that time.

4.) Patrick of Ireland found Christ through suffering. Later he would write that when he was tending sheep as slave, he prayed to the Lord more than a hundred times a day.

5.) Patrick of Ireland was rescued by God’s miraculous intervention.  Patrick had a dream where the Lord told him what route to take, and when to leave his master. There was a ship going back to Patrick’s home, but at first the sailors wouldn’t take him aboard. After he prayed and moved back to where he had hidden/stayed in the harbor, they called out for him to come that they would take him after all. 

6.) Patrick of Ireland was not educated. He trained  as Bishop to take up orders in the church but the Lord interrupted his schooling and he never completed his formal education (he could barely write in Latin).

7.) Patrick of Ireland was slandered  by those in his own church. In several of his letters he writes to tell them that he isn’t coming home to answer the charges they have erroneously brought against him. They can figure out what he is (a Bishop or not), and when they know they can write and let him know.

8.) Patrick of Ireland spoke out about injustice he was very vocal about the mistreatment of women, children, and slaves in Ireland.

How do I know these things? Well for one thing I’ve read about Patrick in books like How The Irish Saved Civilization  by Thomas Cahill and St. Patrick of Ireland by Phillip Freeman. I highly recommend both. However, I’ve gone one further than that, I’ve read what Patrick said about himself That’s right, some of Patrick’s words remain today. The most common one you can usually find at the library is called Confessions of St. Patrick. Don’t worry, it’s not some true-crime tale (which is what I thought it had to be when I first heard of it ).  In Patrick’s day, when you wrote your  Confession it was your testimony you were writing. At that time, confessions were usually penned towards the end of a  Christian believer’s life with the intention of encouraging and exhorting those you were leaving behind. Rather a sweet tradition, I think.   Patrick also penned it as a last defense against those who were slandering him.

Here’s part that really struck home to me, I’ve taken it from St. Patrick of Ireland, and this is Philip Freeman’s translation of the Latin. I love the frank and earnest tone he gives Patrick. In Philip Freeman’s notes on his translation, he says that is really what he wanted to come across to the readers; Patrick’s Latin isn’t high Latin of the Church, it’s “street Latin” if there could be such a thing.

Here’s  Patrick, in his own words:

I am Patrick, a sinner. The most unsophisticated and unworthy among all the faithful of God.  .. .I am very ashamed and afraid to show just how awkward my writing is. I am not able to explain things in just a few words like those who can write briefly. My mind and my spirit can’t even work together so that my words say what I really feel inside….Listen to me well, all of you, great and small, everyone who has any fear of God–especially you wealthy landowners so proud of your education—listen and consider this carefully: God chose foolish little me from among all of you who seem so wise and so expert in the law and so powerful in your eloquence. He picked ignorant Patrick ahead of you all—even though I am not worthy—He picked me to go forth with fear and reverence—and without any of you complaining at the time—to serve the Irish faithfully.

St. Patrick of Ireland, pgs 144-145

Now, I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of Christian I’d like to meet, and buy a pint and the local pub.  He loved Christ greatly. His words and his life agree with one another, and he had no grand airs.  Remember this Patrick, not the too-serious saint you might see in pictures, nor the strange fellow beating a drum and chasing out the snakes (that never happened), but this Patrick.

This is Patrick of Ireland.