Nothin’ unsettling in the Old Settlers’ Cemetery

I love cemeteries! Love 'em! Especially the old ones.

And in them I’ve had adventures not for public record … secrets goin’ with me to my grave – so to speak.

So no twisting of arm was needed when the other day a gal pal issued an invite to the Old Settlers’ Cemetery to look for ghosts or other paranormal activity.

“They won’t be out and about at noon,” I informed her.

She pretty much knew. Still, it made for a nice outing on a lovely early autumn day.

The old settlers’ graveyard is a large grassy piece of land that's fenced in, bordered on one side by a busy road and sprinkled with trees narrow and thick and centuries older than us.

If trees could talk …

Now, as you know, those pioneers of the early to mid-1880s were a no-nonsense, pragmatic and hearty breed who weathered tough to survivalist conditions with none of the pervasive whining, wimpiness and rush to sue over the slightest discomfort and perceived offense that define us as a people now.

When someone was dead, someone was dead and into the ground he or she went and not uncommonly sans gravestones, for a number of reasons, expense being one.

So the smattering of headstones couldn't reveal the full story of who was there. Our every footstep could’ve been over the final earthy resting place of persons past we’d never know existed.

There were the worn stones amid the brush and beneath the trees defining the perimeter, dates and names rendered illegible if not absent by centuries in a cold, wet climate.

Simple crosses painted white carved with nothing more than name and date lay on the ground, their wood wearied by the years and rains.

There were, of course, the markers with birth and death dates identical, reflecting the era's high rate of infant mortality.

And then there were family plots, with half a dozen or so individuals across generations sharing a name side by side. By reading off and comparing dates, my friend and I tried to deduce relationships … father/son? … husband/wife? ….

There was one name that brought me to a stop. Not an unusual name, rather one that captured me with its strength and simplicity. “So-and-so,” I exclaimed to my friend. “I love that name! It’s a great name for a character in a book.” My girlfriend, who also writes, agreed and together we (well, me mostly) began imagining aloud the life of so-and-so in my book.

“I really must come to the graveyards more often with my writing paper and pen …" I concluded.

The other highlight … a lightning bolt of realization … struck as I was standing alone — so it seemed, one never knows for certain in a cemetery — in the family plot, studying the tombstones of a man and husband and next to him a woman who probably was his wife.

I thought all those living who've buried loved ones and reserved or purchased their plots alongside, and as they're visiting their familiar's place of rest, they're also seeing their own, eventually.

It occurred to me that some would find comfort in that … in anticipating being laid alongside someone for all eternity, per one school of belief.

Not me! The concept of a predetermined plot alongside anyone brought no comfort. On the contrary! It brought me to recoil and to feel trapped. In fact, I can't imagine a worse post-life fate than being buried!

I'm not going to share my desired plan, it's none of your damn business! However, rest assured, I know now as I've known since I was a wee one, no turning of a spoonful of soil shall be involved when my time's up.

In the absence of unsettling whispers or chilly breezes, we called it a day. We saw no spirits of the dead but I did witness a birth (of a character in the novel) as well as the passing figure seen by each all of us: Father Time — without whom there'd be no births, no deaths and no graveyards … which, in truth, are not for those passed but the living …

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