Yesterday, a local cemetery association celebrated their 150th anniversary by inviting the community to participate in a "History Hunt." Along with several local lineage societies, our genealogical society members explored headstones dating back to 1861—a time reaching back almost to the state's admission to the Union.
Official presentations commemorated that theme of the long-standing presence of this cemetery in the community, so it was no surprise that I began to realize what a treasure trove of personal stories were represented by the headstones in that small cemetery.
Granted, there are other cemeteries with far more historic, or long-standing memorials. Traveling back east, I've found it quite easy to locate headstones from the 1700s. One of my teenaged delights in New York was to drive to an old whaling village on the tip of Long Island and wander the cemetery in search of burials of people born in the 1600s. Travels to Europe, for instance, can yield dates even farther removed.
No matter how close or far away the cemetery, though, one thought hit me during yesterday's ceremony. Each one of the headstones visible in that small cemetery represented someone's story. Regardless of how long ago the headstone was laid, or how brief or elongated the dash between the dates engraved thereon, each stone stands for a person with a life. Intricate, complicated, full of relationships and bursting with meaning, each little dash between the dates represents the story lived by someone.
Wouldn't it be something to harvest those stories and collect them in a book, someone mused.
Yes. Yes, it would. And what a collection that would be.