Cemeteries have a way of provoking a host of emotions and considerable thoughts about our lives. It doesn’t matter the reason for a visit. Whether visiting a departed family member or a friend or for the peace a cemetery offers.
For the decade I worked in Piqua, I spent a lot of time in the 120-acre Forest Hill Cemetery. It was the perfect quiet spot for a lunch-time walk or — when the weather wasn’t particularly favorable — sit in the car and breathe. I would imagine the lives behind the names on stones, note the dates that for some were far too short.
Around 2013, Forest Hill installed an angel statue, a symbol of hope and healing, based upon the best-selling book, The Christmas Box.
Every Dec. 6, individuals gather by candlelight to lay white flowers at the feet of the angel in memory of a child they have lost.
The cemetery continues to transform with the addition of a labyrinth, designation as an arboretum and its Arbor Day celebrations. There have been Family Picnic days, tree memorials, multiple partnerships with area businesses, and continued plans.
I’ve spent time in the Greenville Union Cemetery, too, and there is never a walk that does not include passing the Ella S. Van Dyke/Henry St. Clair monument. The couple, area merchants, helped to finance the Greenville Public Library (Then the Greenville Carnegie Library) and Memorial Hall.
There has been time spent at the final resting place of maternal grandparents in Covington and far too brief moments in the Dayton National Cemetery, where my husband’s father rests. I know my husband goes there as often as possible. I know he went there not long after he first put on his deputy uniform. I often wonder if he holds the same conversations with his father as I have with my grandparents.
When the Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society (AWTHS) reached out to me in regards to the Ithaca Cemetery last June, I was receptive. I’d been there only once before, years ago, as one of my favorite schoolteachers is buried there. She was an amazing woman who wrote letters and sent items to me while in Israel. She did not remember me towards the end of her life, but I will never forget her.
However, I would be remiss if I did not express shock by the condition of some of the stones at the Ithaca Cemetery upon that June visit. I was witness, first-hand to stones, and thus history at risk of being lost. Amongst some of the oldest stones in the cemetery are the resting place of Ithaca founder John Colville and Arcanum founder William Gunder.
Genealogy has revealed the names behind many of the stones, from founders to soldiers, in thanks to Anita Short.
Short was known in the 1960s as the research and genealogy person who visited area cemeteries, painstakingly reading every stone, moving down each row to catalog the information. She authored several publications, including “Gateway to the West,” as well as many genealogical books and articles for the Arcanum Historical Society.
I imagine she not only reflected a great deal on the lives she cataloged but on her own life. Those things tend to go hand-in-hand when in a cemetery.
Both the AWTHS and Twin Township Trustees have taken steps towards preservation that includes sponsoring a workshop. It was an opportunity for multiple groups and individuals to learn how to properly fix stones with the statement not to wait until it’s too late.
Twin Township has taken another step with a .5 mill levy (Issue 1) to maintain and operate cemeteries on next week’s ballot. While I no longer live in the area, so I haven’t the proverbial “skin in the game” I hope folks will not wait until it’s too late. A cemetery holds so much and means a great deal to a lot of people.
Writer and behavioral scientist Steve Maraboli may have said it best in that, “Cemeteries are full of unfulfilled dreams, countless echoes of could have and should have, countless books unwritten, countless songs unsung.”
The statement is a reminder we should, as Maraboli proceeds to say, “live my life in such a way that when my body is laid to rest, it will be a well-needed rest from a life well-lived, a song well sung, a book well written, opportunities well explored, and a love well expressed.”
Do not wait until it’s too late.
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong is a reporter for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird and a life-long resident of Darke County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in work psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership because she’s a sucker for all things jobs. You may reach her at email@example.com.