Thursday, February 16, 2006

Visiting The Dead

This past weekend marked the fourth anniversary of my brother-in-law's death. He was just 48, the victim of an untimely heart attack. He was buried near the top of a hill in a small town cemetery that overlooks the Washtenaw County countryside. Peaceful, pastoral, welcoming. Several of the family visited there on Sunday to pay our respects and check on things.

Though some cemeteries strictly limit what can be placed at the gravesite, not so this resting place. Years ago an unknown friend of my brother-in-law had taken a golf club, driven the shaft into the ground and written "Dude We Miss You" onto the club head. It still stands next to the headstone, though the painted lettering is wearing off. Yes, my brother-in-law loved to golf with his friends.

While a few of us tried to fix a set of wind chimes that had fallen, I wandered away a bit. Being a change spotter, I'm always attracted to this one headstone where many pennies and a few other coins lie rusting on its polished granite base. There's also a lone nickel resting atop the monument. I have to wonder why. Was he a collector?

On top of another headstone, someone had placed a small pudding stone. Many Michiganders collect pudding stones, including my mother and my sister. They should see the large pudding stone hauled at no mean effort to a resting place on the hill near the forest's edge. It weighs several hundred pounds easily.

Walking down the hill, I stop at a newer site where a pair of large stone angels stand watch. Nestled in the greenery of the grave blanket is a toy stuffed bear, bits of ice and snow collecting in its fur. The little girl buried here did not live to see her tenth birthday.

Her face has been etched in full color on an oval stonepiece which is attached to the headstone. Many headstones similarly feature such color images of the departed. Just as elaborate are the monuments finely etched with images of farms, tractors, dogs, deer, fish or whatever else might be connected with the deceased.

After our visit, my wife recalled the hardships pioneers endured crossing the Oregon Trail when death was nearly an everyday event. Those poor souls who ended their journey west prematurely were buried hastily with only a few rocks or sticks marking the spot. Nobody to remember them there. Nothing to remember them by. Another reason we're fortunate to live in this day and age, even when life ends.


Blogger bornfool said...

I hate to show my ignorance but what is a pudding stone?

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's good to have a place where we can go to remember our loved one's passed

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Big Dave's Dad said...

To that person that wanted to know what a pudding stone is,
I have the history of the stone.
Jasper Conglomerate is in the form of more or less rounded pieces ranging from the size of beans to boulders weighing many tons, the bright red and brown jasper pebbles often mixed with pebbles of white quartz, are cemented by white quartzite, making an attractive, hard and durable stone.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous kristy said...

I am convinced that someday tombstones are going to evolve into something like ATMS--where you can turn them on and call up the person's obituary, a scrapbook of photos from their life, scans of awards and family trees. They'll probably run on some sort of Microsoft software. I'm torn.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave, the Mormons are making monuments to many of those fallen pioneers. They will never be forgotten. I've always thought it would be "cool" to be a pioneer until I found out what they went through...

My daughter was in Michigan last week working. She came home with a sweatshirt for "northern"? Michigan. She was trying to explain to me about Trolls and below the bridge. I'm not quite sure I understand it.

10:11 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

This is a very nice, thoughtful piece, Dave.

But what is a pudding stone? I haven't heard of that.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

The cemetery you described sounds very similar to ours here on the island. The only other place I ever witnessed material "connections" being left at the gravesite was in Europe and I've always thought it a nice rememberance. At our cemetery here, we have a punching bag hanging from a tree above a grave, (which I thought was pretty appropriate)coffee mugs, clam shells, etc. My parents cemetery in the northeast prohibits this type of thing....I like the personalness of it myself.
BTW....all those coins...I'd heard somewhere it's an old European tradition...something to do with helping the person to cross over.

9:38 AM  
Blogger schnoodlepooh said...

I like to wander through cemetaries also. They tell a lot of stories. It's interesting, in a sad kind of way.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

Dave, I'm sorry to hear about your brother-in-law.

Your cemetary sounds similiar to ours. We have a huge Magnolia tree in the center odf ours with a bench underneath it.

I can really ID with the family losing the little girl. My brother's grave lies has a tiny blue bear on it that holds flowers.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

God's Peace to you regarding the recent passing of your brother-in-law, Dave!

Your last paragraph is profound - we should be very grateful for all we have and for those who bravely blazed those trails!

I collected petoskey stones and agates as a kid. Thanks to your dad for the pudding stone information.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:45 AM  

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