Monday, August 30, 2010

Cemeteries - A Lesson in Words

The other day during a trip to the Qu'Appelle valley I visited the local cemetery.  It is a cemetery that has perched on the hill overlooking the valley since before anyone can remember.   In the oldest part of the cemetery the brush has grown gently over some of the graves.  

Have you ever heard of a story in six words?  They're here, hidden by prairie grass, warmed by the summer sun - waiting.
The young man who died from typhoid over a hundred years ago.  His massive stone cross was transported from England and now sits proudly overlooking the Qu'Appelle Valley and marked only by his name, age, cause of death and "Only son....    What had brought him here across an ocean and a continent?

Another marker is a monument to a man killed in the Northwest Rebellion, again over a hundred years ago.   The people he may have known.  The men he fought beside - now only names in a history book.

I move on to the woman who unlike the others does not have a date of birth, only a date of death 1925 and her age which is etched with strong, clear lines into the stone - 102 years.  I see pride in that simple stone and I imagine her story. 

How effective the simple epitaphs are at reflecting the lives of those that rest here, but even better at conveying the love that they left behind.   "Cherished...", "Together Again..., "Until we meet again...",  "Forever Beloved...",  "Gone for a time..."   Memories, sorrow, love - a lifetime is condensed into those few poignant words.

As a writer - how do you touch those emotional depths?  As a reader it is a rare book that does - but one you can't put down.  Those are the keepers.  Read any keepers lately? 



Oh said...

I know it sounds trite but THE HELP really got me, and is a keeper. I don't know if I'll reread it, like I do PRIDE AND PREJUDICE from time to time. And AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD by Annie Dillard - that's another one that has always been a keeper because of the details she included and they're so "every day" and dear.

True confession: Some books I just fly through, reading them like candy, like entertainment...Which is why I enjoy hearing and reading about what y'all are reading.

Oh, and books by Edith Wharton. She does "characters" so well.

Ryshia Kennie said...

You know I've never read The Help but I was curious so I checked it out. Trite or not it sounds like a couple on my keeper shelves. Maybe I'll have to give it a read.

A Woman of Substance makes my keeper shelves but so does East Lynn which was the first book to have me teary eyed. I just finished White Heat and was considering rereading the Chrysalids by John Wyndham - one of those stories that haunt you.