a dreaded sunny day… 1.

23 Jun

“so we go inside and we gravely read the stones
all those people all those lives
where are they now?
with the loves and hates
and passions just like mine
they were born
and then they lived and then they died
seems so unfair
i want to cry.”

“cemetery gates,” the smiths

my 2010 summer will be full of dead people.

i decided to take a summer cemetery tour this summer/fall, to visit cemeteries all within about an hour or so of me and take pictures and notes and be an all around geek/weirdo. i’m trying to hit about a cemetery a week, and i was successful in my first two weeks. i’ve had to skip the last two weeks for various reasons, but i’m hoping to get back in the game this weekend. it hasn’t helped that i’ve felt guilty that i have THREE cemeteries worth of photos to post. ๐Ÿ™‚

i’ve always liked cemeteries. i don’t know why. i guess because i like the idea of all these hundreds or thousands of stories, right there in one place. there’s the rub, though โ€“ sometimes, in a historical cemetery, the stories are right there for you to learn; for most cemeteries, though, you have to learn the stories some other way, through somebody’s kin, or you just go in blindly, with no stories at all.

still, the names, the dates, the epitaphs… i love it, whether or not i know the tales behind them all.

so, below, photos and stories. and, if i took a picture of your relative’s grave, i hope you consider it a compliment โ€“ i only take photos of graves i find interesting, for whatever reason.
(ps., you can click on all these pictures to view the full sizes)

my first stop was wilkins cemetery. it is, hands down, my favorite, but it’s private now. i understand it needs to be preserved, but i don’t like being considered illegal just because i’m going to visit family.

and, yeah, i have family at wilkins.

my great-great grandparents:

my great-uncle john.
i was 9 when he died, so i don’t remember him very well. i was terrified of him, but that kind of makes sense โ€“ i never knew either grandfather, and my families (on both sides) are full of women, so he was the only older man i knew. the only thing i really remember is that we’d have family reunions at his house, and my sole entertainment was chasing uncle john’s peacocks with my cousin rebecca.
i’m told uncle john was a mean storyteller; my mom’s always said she wished i knew him better and could have heard more of his stories.
the one story of his i do know is wilkins. according to uncle john, back in the day, he was in his buggy, going down the road, and he was about to pass wilkins cemetery. his mule, though, wouldn’t pass the cemetery. he couldn’t get it to go on, no matter how hard he tried. then, a ball of fire shot out of the cemetery, across the road. once that happened, the mule continued on.

alford bailey:
i’m not entirely sure how i’m related to him, but he’s a bailey, so i’ve got to be. according to my grandma, alford’s wife was, well… special. one day she went to church and asked to be put on the prayer list. her reasoning was that she needed her “stumbling block removed.” well, a week later, alford was dead.
say what you want โ€“ i think the official cause was, like, heart disease or diabetes or something โ€“ but we know better.

is wilkins haunted? i don’t have a clue. i have that story from uncle john and lord only knows how true it is. but, i will say this: there are some places in this world that just have a feel to them, and wilkins is one of them.

i used to love spending hours up there as a teenager with my mom, walking around, looking at graves. we had family there, but then there are all these other graves that are interesting โ€“ confederate soldier graves, the graves of all those sloan kids (there are two sets of sloan parents, each of whom lost at least 6 kids at various ages – they’re all buried in a row at wilkins. i can’t remember but i think i counted a total of 14 sloan kids buried there). i can’t explain it, really. the air just feels heavier there. i actually feel like those people are there with me.

i love the old church that’s there on the property too. i’ve been inside twice โ€“ years ago, and probably illegally. whatever, it’s still a gorgeous structure, and the feeling in there โ€“ wow.

pontotoc city

ya know, pontotoc’s cemetery is really pretty, and really interesting.
(just beware the bees. they’re not kidding with those signs.)

i really need a tour guide to take me though this cemetery properly. there are so many stories there, i just know it.

like this woman. ann baker.

her tombstone stood out to me because, for the time, it’s incredibly plain and simple. i wonder what her story is. most women of this time have a huge tombstone, usually saying they’re someone’s wife or daughter. ann’s is just ann’s. i have a feeling she deserves something bigger than this.

i love and adore this quote on the back of this tombstone. in case you can’t read it, it says: “can i learn to suffer without saying something ironic or funny on suffering? i never suspected the way of truth was a way of silence.”

bet you didn’t know ruby elzy was from pontotoc. ruby created the role of serena in “porgy and bess.” she had an amazing voice.

i think her epitaph is one of the most perfect ones ever written.

father’s day was this past weekend, and the day made me wonder about this man, whose tombstone i ran up on in pontotoc. there is a story here, a heartbreaking one, one i don’t know.

2 Responses to “a dreaded sunny day… 1.”

  1. April P. June 23, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Love this post. =)

    I still think we should sometime make the trip down to Natchez…on top of the ACRES of old gravestones and tombs, there are spanish moss-covered trees. It’s simply LOVELY. I have somewhere we can stay down there as my mommy lives in Vicksburg (about an hour north).

    • sheenabarnett June 23, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

      thanks april ๐Ÿ™‚
      if ever i can get some time away…YES!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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