When I’m on the road with time to spare, I love to stop at rural cemeteries. It’s not morbid at all. There is so much history in a cemetery that visiting one is like taking a trip back in time.
Anyone who has any detective in them can find clues about the people buried there. I know that someday I will occupy such a place. Perhaps someone like me will stop by, say hi, and spend a few minutes trying to figure who I was. I love that thought.
When I am exploring a cemetery, reading headstones and trying to put pieces of lives together, I know that I am simply visiting with people who traveled through time before me. We all take our turns. My time is now. Lucky me.
In the very rural cemeteries of the West, you find many childrens’ graves. And the adults, well. . . they didn’t live as long as we do. Life was hard and uncertain. A decade ago in a tiny, nearly forgotten California gold rush cemetery, I stumbled upon a family plot — father, mother and five daughters — the Gaugh family. The oldest daughter lived to 18. Her sisters died younger. The husband survived his wife and all the children by more than a decade.
I have never forgotten the Gaughs. What grief the father must have endured as the sole survivor of his family. Oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine! Yet I try. I try because I want to honor him, his wife and his precious girls. But I also want to remind myself that I am alive now and must appreciate my life — and live it to its fullest. I once read a quote that went, “Live each day as if it were a work of art.” What splendid advice! Visiting a cemetery pulls me out of a stupor in which I forget to appreciate that “I am one lucky guy to be alive.” Such a jolting thought helps me go forward with energy and purpose, and to appreciate every day, every experience and every person I meet.
MY DAYS TRAVELING BY RV are among my best. I see new places. I meet new people. I fill my head with new experiences that morph into memories. And I am richer for it. I am happy to live in a time where I can do something like this.
Stop at the next cemetery you come upon. Spend time reading the headstones. Sit on a bench. Think. Feel privileged to be above ground and not below. And, corny as it sounds, say hi to the residents. Learn what you can about them and about yourself, too.