Almost done with Boy Scouts and high school, my little brother’s eagle scout project was to clean up a cemetery. It has been a very long time since I have even stepped foot in a cemetery but I was shocked when I arrived to find the area we were in charge of cleaning and weeding, a complete mess. It was even more shocking to look not that far away from the area and to see shiny tombstones, well manicured green lawns and not broken glass, empty food wrappers or empty beer cans anywhere in site.
I was horrified further to find out that almost all cemeteries have a certain part of their grounds that look like this. These areas get little money coming in for their in ground patrons -this is no surprise seeing as how these are much older grave sites- so when most cemeteries due their budgeting they put more of it and more of their time and effort into the parts of the cemetery that have newer in ground patrons and therefore get visited with a higher frequency.
While weeding and generally cleaning up this particularly overgrown and neglected after part of the cemetery we managed to find three tomb stones that were buried deep beneath the weeds and bushes. One would never have thought them there no matter how hard they looked without the hours of cleaning. Two of these belonged to military men who fought in both world war II and Korea and yet here they were hidden away and forgotten. The third belonged to a mother of three according to the tombstone. The three must have loved her because there was something on the tombstone that you don’t see all that often on tombstones, a picture of the woman and here it was all of this time, money and love put into having a picture on the tombstone and yet we found it buried and forgotten as well. When we reported these three tombstones that we had uncovered we found that people had been looking for one of the military men’s tombstones for over 25 years knowing only that it was in that cemetery but not where.
I think it is really important to stop and take a close look at what this really means and I hope you’ll see the vulgarity in it. As a culture, the American Culture, we are known for how little respect and commitment we have towards our elderly. We are chided for putting our elders into homes and for talking down to them. We constantly see fit to defend ourselves against this but how can we really when it is true for our dead as well? The older the deceased are the less attention that they get, the less money they get spent on them and the more grotesque their eternal resting place on this earth is. Think about this.
Even if the cemetery’s won’t or can’t do it, it only took 15 of us 4 hours to weed, clean, mow, water and plant flowers in this unkempt section of the Healdsburg cemetery. It may not look as amazing as the rest of the cemetery but with time and effort and love it could. I know there are always people looking for good works, groups looking for a service project and students looking for something that will make them stand out on applications. Please considered offering a hand to clean up these neglected parts of the cemetery. It really does make a difference for you, for families and for memories.