December 17, 2007

Fairview Cemetery

On Saturday, I was asked to officiate at the funeral of a community member. It was a graveside service at the cemetery up the road where I have done many funerals over the past eight years.

I didn't really know the man who had passed away. I had met him and spoken with him a few times. His grandson is in my son's 5th grade class. I didn't realize, until the funeral, how many people that I knew were part of his family. As I looked around at those gathered at the graveside on that cold Saturday morning, I saw a number of familiar faces.

Several of them were students I had met while substitute teaching. Yesterday, one of them, a teenager, found my myspace site and sent me an email thanking me for doing his grandfather's service. I was touched by his gesture.

I felt an urge to return to the cemetery today, to take one last look around before we leave this community next week. I arrived in between rainstorms, and walked around, searching for the tombstones of others whose funerals I had done....

I saw many names that I had pronounced before crowds of mourners: Pierce, Spangler, Mascaro, Calliote, and Walker. There were the names I had pronounced twice, doing funerals for both husband and wife: Berrier and Derby. There was even the name of my congressman--Herger--who's father was a member of my church.

I found the name of Cornelius Stolp, who died in 1909. For the past eight years I've lived at the intersection of Cornelius Ave., named for him. I've met Cornelius' grandson, who lives in Sacramento.

I found the grave of two young children who both died on the same day in 1884, and wondered what sort of tragedy took their lives. I'm guessing it wasn't a car crash.

The oldest grave I found was for a person who died in 1865. That's pretty old by California standards. There may have been one or two that were even older, but I didn't find them.

You may think it would be depressing to walk around a graveyard, especially one in which so many of the names are of people I knew. It wasn't. What's sad isn't that these people died. What's sad is that so many who are alive today are wasting away their lives. Maybe if they'd spend a little time walking around a graveyard, they'd realize just how valuable and precious their own life is.

I guess walking through the graveyard on this misty day was also a way for me to say goodbye to this community. It is certainly with mixed emotions that I prepare to leave the place I've called home these past eight years, the place where one son was born and the other has lived all but two of his ten years.

No comments: