“God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled.”
The whole family, toting baskets of nippers and hand rakes, flowers and water jugs, trudged to the top of the hill in the old Murphy cemetery. My great-aunts, Lyda and Bess, moved slowly, but with authority—this was family, and they were the undisputed matrons. Once at the family plot, the baskets were set out on the grass and work began. Some of the men-folks raked and nipped and tidied up the area around each grave, while the women divided the flowers and urns and began creating small arrangements. While they worked, they talked about the ones whose bodies lay there—Elbert and Ruth, so young when they passed, Carrie, oldest of the five sisters, ruler of the roost, little Tom Lee, a wee-babe, my father's youngest brother, and Mary Alston, the great-grandmother everyone said I favored. I watched. At five, my job was simply to stay out of the way. What I remember is the reverence with which they cared for the graves; the same care they gave the person when they were still alive. This annual journey to the top of Cemetery Hill on All Saints Day was their tribute to the lives lived, and the loss remembered by those still here.
The lips repose our love has kissed--
But where's their memory's mansion? Is't
Yon churchyard's bower?
No! In ourselves their souls exist.
A part of ours...”
Thomas Campbell ('Hallowed Ground')
Seneca said: “The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” This I believe. I know my family's “saints” are not in that ground, but I do still visit the old graves from time to time, and remember what little I know about the ones buried there. I try to honor their memory, whether or not I knew them as living human beings. What I remember most, especially about my great-aunts, who have joined them now, is the love they had for one another—though none of them were saints in the Biblical sense. They were pillars of a family that still tries to stick together; that stands today simply because they once lived.
Which of your saints will you remember today? And how you will choose to honor them?