Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In The Midst of Death, Life

My cemetery restortation project has turned into a history lesson. In order to get grant monies, I have to research the people buried there and turn up something "significant" so the folks with the dough will be prompted to agree that yes, we DO need to preserve the place because so-and-so who did this-and-that I lies in repose there.

However, researching the lives of these people has made me think that they are ALL significant. From the babies who were stillborn because their mother experienced placental abruption (due to placenta previa), to the children who died in the cholera epidemic, to the man who was shot and killed in an argument over a woman to the elderly who succumbed to "senility" and "apoplexy" and even the two who lived to be 100…..ALL of those people are significant. Their lives have, and are touching me. I'm looking at their family trees, at their descendants – some of whom are still living in the area – and even before that, I'm looking at how they came to be here. There are immigrants from Europe, people from the East Cost (who I believe may have come to Kansas as part of the abolition emigration), people from the South (most likely pro-slavery folks looking to make Kansas the same – which is the same reason the abolitionists came here)…people from all over the world are here. These people saw America fight herself in the Civil War; some of them saw the nearby town of Lawrence burned to the ground by the notorious William Quantrill, they lived through John Brown's massacre of innocent people in the name of "freedom"….they were a part of history and they are in MY TOWN.

I've been asked recently why I want to spend so much time in the cemetery with "dead people". Yes, their bodies may have failed and ceased to work, but their personal histories let them live on. Every time I find information about someone, it feels as if I'm resurrecting them. I imagine them standing next to me as I read about them, saying "Yes! That was me! Read some more!"


That graveyard isn't really about death. It's about life.