Friday, November 04, 2011

Eternal Perspectives (Autumn in my favorite cemetery)

"Meadows of Heaven" by NIGHTWISH

Lake View Cemetery
 - where the views are eternal, death is alive, and Hope is victorious -

We had another glorious out-of-place weather week. It reached 70(F) and since we live in a micro-climate along Lake Erie the leaves are still on the trees here in November. My son and I knew it would be a great day at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, so off we went.

The winding drive down MLK Boulevard from the lake shore is always interesting, but yesterday the leaves were falling and it was like a confetti parade. This area of Cleveland (between University Hospitals/Cleveland Clinic) - the area called University Circle - is just such a beautiful place.

Upon arrival at Lake View my son headed straight for an area that has a small grove of thread leaf Japanese Maples. He has photographed them through the years and today we expected them to be ablaze… and they were. I wondered off to read headstones, but without much deliberation. I recognized one family right away; I had figured out some of their story a couple of years ago on a similar day. I could see that Harold lost his wife while she was only 28, and she left him a newborn. I wondered if she died giving birth; it was the late 1800’s. With no specific date other than the year it was impossible to tell if his birth date and her death date were the same (since his headstone was also there). Harold remarried and Edith also gave him a son. Harold died only 5 years later. Edith had her own son and this other son to raise alone (or so it seemed, she was, after all, buried on Harold‘s right, his first wife on his left, and no other man around that could be matched to her). Both of those boys died a year apart 9 and 10 years later. Edith lived until 1941; apparently unmarried and without any other children.

Another family, Carabelli I think it read, have a huge family monument with smaller stones surrounding it. It speaks of wealth and standing. They perhaps had money, but tragedy visited them often. On one end of the family monument flush to the ground is a stone with the names of 3 children. On the opposite end is another stone with 3 more children. Each child died between the ages of one and four, but not at the same time. Some terrible thing visited them; a genetic issue? an accident? or worse? In this day and age the immediate thought was that Children’s Services would have been all over that household, but such judgment needs to be put aside for we just don’t know. Heartbreak was no stranger to them; that we can be sure.

A short distance across a roadway I saw the names of two little girls on one stone, ages 3 and 6, who died together on December 14. Next to their stone was a brother who died 3 days later on the 17th; he was 4. It was the 1870’s - were they all sick and he lingered? Were they all in a fire or an accident and they thought the little guy was going to pull though? The stones never tell anything other than the cold hard facts; they died.

Walking through this enormous place does not make me sad. Perhaps because it is feels distant and historic, so antique. The newer section doesn’t have the grandeur or monumental architecture and we never walk through there; I suppose that would feel different anyway. The older sections have a notable amount of (Biblical) scripture on the stones; verses that look ahead to heaven and a promise to thjose still here that the Words are true. Occasionally there are new graves in the older sections. I came across a 2011 fresh date for a woman (almost 100!) who died this year and her shell was placed in this old family plot. Her ancestors went back to the mid 1800’s.

When I visit the modern cemetery where my parents' shells remain it is such a different experience. It is a vast open space covered in plastic flowers and artificial wreaths (nearly all the stones are flush to the ground for ease of mowing). It is situated on a slightly rolling hill with very few trees. It sits in stark contrast to the arboretum and architectural aspects of Lake View which is filled with color and texture - it is full of life - strangely. The residents lie in quiet repose with no message except for what their monuments have to say; they are no longer there having gone on to one of two places.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:27-28

These photographs and may more in the "Eternal Perspectives" series are available at