When I’m visiting Luke, wandering among the graves can be oddly comforting. After all, there’s no place where death is more normal than a cemetery.
Whole life histories are etched there on the stones. Marriages, births, military service, favorite sports teams, inside jokes (“Remember, I’m watching you like a hawk” reads an inscription on the back of one marker). And, of course, deaths.
There’s the woman who died at 101, outliving her husband by 50 years. The 23-year-old “loving wife and mother.” The couple who had four children from 1911 to 1915: a daughter who apparently never married, a son who served in World War II and the Korean War, a second son who served in World War II, and a third son who died at age 9.
One couple died on the same day in 1922. How did it happen, I wonder? House fire?
There are many children buried here. In the children’s section, along with Luke, there are eight other babies. Most apparently were stillbirths or died the day they were born. One lived 10 months. Another lived 9.
One baby boy is buried a row over from his parents. His dad died at age 51 (cancer? heart attack?). His mom is still alive, and now 57 years old. Does she have living children, I often wonder?
Elsewhere in the cemetery, there’s a fresh grave, a 6-year-old boy who died 11 days before Luke. In the photo on his temporary marker, he’s grinning and wearing a Oshkosh hoodie. There’s a 9-year-old (“finally free to be a boy”) and an 11-year-old (“We will never forget your infectious smile”).
Some graves date to the Civil War era, the stones blurred and darkened, the names difficult to make out, the flowers and decorations gone for decades.
Most of one row is occupied by a matriarch/patriarch born in the 1820s and surrounded by more than a dozen of their ancestors.
There are children in this section, too. The 1-year-old who died in 1862, the 5-month-old who died in 1892. The white cross marked simply, “Little Gussie.”
We can’t outrun Father Time. He always catches up. And eventually, our loved ones will stop visiting, themselves entombed in the earth or scattered on the winds. But someday a grieving mom or dad, husband or wife, sister or brother may wander past our graves, read the inscriptions, and hold their breath in honor and awe of the life and love immortalized there.