Belmont Manor recently had an open house that my family took advantage of, my brother and I accompanying our parents to see the gardens our father designed and landscaped. After walking around the extensive gardens, my father took me to the old family cemetary tucked in the back of the property. My father intended to show off the giant tulip tree just outside the cemetary fence, but I was more interested in the tomb stones.
There were many things I found fascinating about this particular graveyard, and the first thing I noticed was the was it was arranged. There were three perfectly aligned rows at the very front of the fenced off area, but then there were several tombstones just behind that were set in rows that would intersect with the front rows. Then at the very back of the graveyard were three more tombstones, spaced as if “pariah” that was contagious even after death. Two of those tombstones were short, coming only to mid-shin and jagged as if they had been broken decades before. The third tombstone stood tall, coming to my elbow. I found this headstone to be the most intriguing, because while I could tell that the traditional inscriptions had been inscribed, it had faded to obscurity.
I stared at this tombstone for several minutes, letting my mind wander to the life of the man or woman who lay beneath my feet. This headstone was just a marker, but it also symbolized the person’s life. Its isolation within the graveyard, its unwritten obituary whispered of a possibly tragic life. What kind of life could this person have led to both warrant a tall tombstone set alone and let to lose its marking? Of course, its position and tragic loss of markings could have nothing to do with the life the deceased had lived; s/he could have been cherished by all s/he knew, and had been set apart as a mark of honor. Or, perhaps, it wasn’t alone at all, and was just a lone survivor of many unmarked graves I may have been tramping over.
No matter the reason, I found the tombstone to be quite tragic. It was alone, and no one would know who was buried beneath. They may have been once-loved, but now there was no one to maintain its identity, no one who remembered him/her. The only thing left of a life once-lived was a worn down stone.