Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beatrice

I was surprised by how much it bothered me...

I mean, I'm not even sure I believe in cemeteries.

I think land should be utilized for the living and, while I can appreciate a cemtery as an oasis of calm and 'other worldliness' in the midst of teeming urban life, I am too much a child of my family, and the generations of people before me, who have been cremated and had their ashes returned to the Atlantic Ocean at the end of 'our' block on an island off the coast of New Jersey.

But I can appreciate the artistry and beauty of old cemetery monuments and markers as well as the plantings and profound silence to be found while walking around on a beautiful spring day.

And, truth be told, I had many thoughts to process and things to feel accumulated from the past few weeks.
No one gives a second thought to an older woman crying in a cemetery; it's not just the dead that are invisible there.

I had been there before; many times, actually; not only for 'pleasure' if that concept doesn't sound too incongruous, but for more funerals of children I've worked with than I care to remember.
There are two graves I always look forward to seeing though of children I never met or knew; children who died more than a century before I started walking around in their final resting place.

The Church sisters: Carlotta, the oldest, born in November 1899 and died in June 1905 and her baby sister, Beatrice, born in Jan 1905 and died in April 1906.
"Lottie" only knew her baby sister for 6 months.

I can't tell you how many times I've wondered about their deaths - what were the causes? - and how their parents, especially their mother, withstood losing two little ones in such a short period of time.

I'd even sewn a sampler in honor of Beatrice... a young girl who would never know the joys of sewing or creating something lovely through her own efforts.
It hangs in my bedroom and I think of her every time I see it.

Her 'angel' was one of the most beautifully carved statues I've ever seen and I've often wondered if the artisan that created it used an image of her as his model.

Lottie's is very different and it IS lovely, but there's no denying I liked Beatrice best!

As I got to the bend in the road, I began looking for the side by side markers and the sight I found instead literally took my breath away...
and a wave of sadness swept over me.

I know I'm just a fanciful old woman. I suspect the relatives of these long dead, forgotten children never come to visit at all...but the nerve of people for whom nothing is sacred, nothing is 'set apart', sickens me.

I can only hope Beatrice is in the gorgeous garden of some mansion (not a McMansion, please God, I'd hate that; let it at least be someone with taste!) surrounded by life and beauty; it's owner oblivious, hopefully, to the reality that she came to them stolen by a grave robber.

It's one thing to have time and natural erosion destroy the markers in old cemeteries; it's quite another for the destruction to be at the hands of greedy, small hearted thieves or mere malcontents.

Lottie shoulders on, standing her post...at least, for now.

As do we all.

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