Last year over spring break the boys and I visited Laurel Hill Cemetery. It is one of the few cemeteries in the US with the distinction of being a National Historic Landmark. It is just beautiful. The monuments are so different and special. There is no uniformity in the markers on the graves and it is not uncommon to find a family born in the late 1700′s have members buried in the family plot well into the 1900′s.
Last year when we went to the cemetery the boys ran about willy nilly. They tromped over graves and jumped over headstones. I had to tell them about the dates and how old people were when they died. We talked about respect. The boys were especially shocked to learn that many kids died young. They asked about it and why, which led to a discussion of vaccines and antibiotics. The boys were more interested to run than to talk.
Today we talked so much. They still did their fair share of running about but we talked about the Civil War. Both boys had learned about President Lincoln in school and were excited to see graves of people who lived at that time. They asked a ton about history which had me looking things up on my phone. We came across a woman putting palm fronds on her mothers grave. Her Mom had died just a few months ago. The first thing Ryan said to her was, I am so sorry for your loss, which just made me so proud. The woman told us about her Mom and how her Mom led an inspiring life. She felt her Mom needed to be part of history so she had her buried at this historic cemetery. The woman complemented me on my parenting and told us she thought it was great we were there at the cemetery to learn.
We talked a ton about the weathering of stone and the fact that limestone weathered pretty poorly. We found graves
as new as the 1920′s that were unreadable because the headstone was limestone. The granite headstones, even the ones from the 1800′s were much easier to read. Then we were on to architecture. The stained glass windows in the millionaires mausoleums was just incredible. Aaron wanted to look in every mausoleum and see when the people were born and died, to see the tile work, and the leaded glass.. We talked about Frank Furness, his architecture, and the fact he was buried in the cemetery.
For me visiting the cemetery makes me think of families. I thought of the family in my life. I thought about the family not in my life. My family so does not believe in being close in any true meaningful way. Looking at all the families still together in death, made me wish for a family that wouldn’t fist fight even after death, and I hoped that I could do better as a parent and raise kids who want to be in my life. Towards the end of the walk, I enjoyed holding each boys hand and I hoped we could be a family that bucked the modern trend of dispersal. A family that chooses each other.