I did something today that I haven’t done in years. I took a break from the chaos that is currently my life and had a quiet lunch in a local cemetery. Today was absolutely gorgeous, and I was having a craptastic day where everything I tried to get done ended up being ten times harder than it should have been. I was frustrated and grumpy and just needed a break. I picked up some Panera and drove around to try to find a park to eat at. Unfornutaly, every single park I went to was quite crowded, and even if I wasn’t worried about COVID, none were quiet enough to let me relax. So I picked some random back roads and said to myself, “First cemetery I come across I’m stopping at.”
Ten minutes later, I almost passed by a tiny cemetery sitting on a hill in between some cornfields outside of Mahomet. I pulled off and grabbed my lunch. I was surprised how pretty the cemetery was and absolutely quiet except the blowing wind. Walking up to the edge of the cemetery, I was surprised to look down and see a black feather tucked into the grass right in front of me. I’ve been finding feathers often lately. I found a dry spot to sit in the grass under a tree. Instantly I felt relaxed. I enjoyed my soup and sandwich while listening to a blue jay sing in the tree above me. As I sipped my chai latte, I tried to read the headstones nearest to me. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I could read the names and the dates, but everything around those words didn’t make sense.
I got up and walked up to the first headstone. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I couldn’t read the other parts of the headstones because the headstones were written in German! There were about a dozen graves in the little cemetery, and almost all of them had German phrases on them. The cemetery seemed to be a small family cemetery with dates from the mid-1850s to the early 1900s. I’ve tried to google the family names, but not much has come up. I am going to see if I can figure out more about the family’s history.
The whole time I was in the cemetery, I remembered what my Dad used to tell my sister and me about how families would have Sunday supper in the graveyards after church. In old Southern cemeteries, he said that some headstones were either long, flat headstones, so people could sit on them without getting dirty or raised to act as a table for family members to gather around. They chose to do this custom so that they could continue to break bread with their family members.
Growing up, my Mom’s family would have family reunion’s in Mount Airy, North Carolina. After we were all stuffed with good Southern food, most of the older family members and a few of us kids would walk over to the church’s graveyard. Grandma and Mom would point out which Tuckers we were related to. While it wasn’t the same as eating in the cemetery as others had before us, it had the same sentimentality to me as what Dad had told us about.
When I lived in Beaufort, North Carolina, I lived a few blocks away from the Old Burying Ground on Anne Street. The old cemetery is from the 1700s. There is so much history here. I use to love wandering the graves and trying to imagine how the inhabitants lived their life. I would also go down there when I needed to think or just to ground myself. I guess I have always found cemeteries such a relaxing place.
Since coming home from my impromptu picnic, I have reached out to my sister and my friend, Emma, about some of the phrases that were etched into the headstones. They helped me with the translations. Hier ruhet in frieden means here rests in peace. Entschlafen zur ewigen ruhe means fell asleep to eternal peace. Hier ruht in Gott unser Lieber vater und gatte means here rests in God our dearest father and husband. Selig sind die todten die in dem heerrn sterben von nun an means henceforth blessed are the dead that died with the Lord. I appreciate their help in translating these. I am not familiar with German. The only phrase I know is, “Do you speak German?” which isn’t helpful at all if that’s all they speak.
While having a picnic in a random cemetery isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, maybe with the craziness that comes with COVID, maybe others will start making it trend again. Cemeteries don’t have to be creepy places or places that only see grief. Happiness, love, and history can be found there. With that being said, I am going to close out this post to research something random Magan, my sister, just sent me. Supposedly Abraham Lincoln was supposed to join the ill-fated Donner Party but pulled out because his wife didn’t want to move to California. Not sure if its true or not, but if it is, just more proof that husbands will do well to listen to their wives.
***Added Tuesday evening***
While I was hanging out at Bethlehem Cemetery, I set my phone up to do a voice recording and set it on the ground beside me while I ate. This afternoon I decided to listen to the recording to see if I got anything. I wasn’t expecting anything but was surprised to actually hear something. I’ve attached the clip below. I apologize for the loud noise in the beginning. I was scrunching up my trash. Right before you hear me say “That was silly” you can faintly hear a “mm-hmm” or a male grunt. I was saying “that was silly” because my spoon tore the bag.
Can you hear what I heard? If so, what do you think it’s saying? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear what y’all hear.