I am a wanderer, a roamer of cemeteries. Settle me into one, be it old or new, and I’ll be quite content for the next several hours, walking ‘mongst the graves, making pictures of the ones that peak my curiosity . . . and I seem to have cemetery radar (not to be confused with the cat radar, which I also seem to possess). Even the tiniest of cemeteries, hidden in the most obscure places, do not escape detection. For example, we were on the road Tuesday, driving to my husband’s aunt’s funeral in Centerville (which, by the way, you can’t get to from Savannah) when I chanced to see the tippy top of a monument barely peeking out from behind a hill.
Small family cemetery at two o’clock . . .
Aunt Dot was to be buried in Centerville Cemetery which was just a short walk from the church where her funeral was held. But we drove because we didn’t know that. And because we had my in-laws with us. I thought I’d died and gone to cemetery heaven when we pulled in. It spread out before me like a time capsule whose contents had been scattered across the ground, waiting to be examined and appreciated. Ancient monuments dotted the landscape, crafted when artists carved them by hand and families wrote their hearts in the stone. As luck would have it (since time was short), directly across from Dot’s final resting place was a magnificent example of all of the above . . . the Brown family monument. So when the committal service drew to a close, I slipped away to visit with the gentle guardian of the Browns.
The base was constructed in such a fashion that it actually formed a bench, a bench I could imagine a young widow occupying for hours on end as she mourned her husband. After all, he was only 34 when he died. As is my custom, the first available moment in front of a computer found me delving into Ancestry.com and FindAGrave.
It seems that Mr. Robert Paul Brown was a graduate of the Cumberland University School of Law and a practicing attorney in Centerville. He had married the lovely Wilma Harrison and they had adopted a little girl, Bobbie. He, his wife and child, and his secretary had ventured to Nashville to begin residence there during the sessions of the General Assembly. And it was there in the Noel Hotel at the corner of Church and Fourth—a building that still exists today in all of its art deco grandeur—that he died of a heart attack on January 2, 1939. On the monument that marks his individual grave, his wife had ordered the following inscription:
“Since thou canst no longer stay to cheer me with thou love I hope to meet with thee again in yon bright world above.”
Although Wilma eventually remarried, at her death she was laid beside her first love.
Whenever I find such a treasure, I get this warm, fuzzy feeling, but when I find the story of the life being memorialized, that feeling multiplies by about a zillion. Which brings me to the following observation:
In today’s world, when options other than burial are becoming more popular, the stories told by these ancient stones will not be told for many who pass from this world to the next. That may not seem so important now. There are those who will remember, those who will tell their children in the hope that they will continue to pass the stories from generation to generation. But we all know that someday, the stories will fade and be forgotten, as will the people who lived them. Yes, the information will still be available if you know where to look. But what will trigger the search if there is nothing to publicly proclaim that someone ever lived? The Mr. Browns of this world and the life that was theirs will be lost to Time and Eternity—a fate that was not his because someone cared enough to place that ancient stone in hallowed ground . . . a stone that marks his grave as it whispers of his life.