Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Black and White: A Trip to the Otherside

Eleven years ago, on September 27, my beloved grandmother passed away. Her funeral was held shortly after my birthday of Oct 1st - so the beginning of the month is always a bittersweet time for me. I thought it appropriate that not only would I kick off my October/Halloween blog sessions with a tribute to her (and death itself) but it also coincides with Sophistique Noir's Black and White Monthly Theme assignment.

This September 27, I decided to visit her grave and in doing so, found myself connecting with not only the cemetery itself but some of it's other inhabitants. And we all know that really poignant gravestone photos are hands down the black and white variety. So let's get started:

There seems to be a strange synchronicity in my family concerning life and death. My grandmother died on my mom's wedding anniversary (she's been divorced for nearly my entire lifetime, but I digress) and my brother was born on the day my would-have-been uncle died. It will be interesting to see if any other strange occurrences will come to light one day.

I think I would have liked my Uncle Steve. From the stories that Mom told us and the photos I've seen, it's such a shame that he left this world so young. The kid didn't even make it to 21, and yet he was killed by a drunk driver. There's another one.

The boy and I had a bit of debate over whether this was an ironic last name or a simple statement of the obvious.

We found a lot of headstones for those who had participated in WWII and even a few that were Civil War Vets. The history that you come across in some of these out-of-the-way cemeteries is fascinating and tragic in the way that so much of it's been forgotten.

There were a lot of families buried near to each other. These two were siblings and probably both died as a direct relation to either the Great Depression or the war. Lubbertus (cool name, right?) made it to  30 and his sister Alice died in 44 at not much older. Life in rural MN was tough in those times though....

Some headstones were either so old that you could barely read the epitaphs anymore or simply had no associated grave. These two were stacked next to each near a rather spacious family plot - where the wealthier family had been placed atop the graves of these two and rather than just remove their headstones altogether (which does sometimes happen) opted to leave them nearby.

Gerrit J. Shut died at age 22 in 1944. We speculated that he might have served overseas during the war or even fought in it. It's hard to say, but the dates are right....anyways even though he's a Shut (and there are lots of these German folks in the cemetery) he's buried at a distance from the rest of them so either he's an unrelated Shut or perhaps crammed in at the last second.

The arrangement of burials is a fascinating one to me.

Do you enjoy visiting graveyard and cemeteries? Are you like me, interested in the lives of those lost to time or do you just like the "spooky" factor? It's almost Halloween, you can be honest. ;)


  1. Over the summer, I went with my father to his brother and parents' cemeteries. I promised myself that from now on I would always bring some gardening tools. Because I'm a tour guide at a historic cemetery, I forget that not all cemeteries have the same staff and lawn care available. I found myself pulling weeds by hand. I've also been meaning to sign up for one of the cemetery care trainings so that if I do come across some fall stones, I'll actually know what to do.

    My grandfather was a genealogist so as far back as I can remember, I ran around cemeteries looking for our family name. That being said, my father raised me on Twilight Zones and all things that go bump in the night. So to answer your question, simply Yes.

  2. This post is a beautiful tribute to your grandmother! And the photos evoke so much feeling. I have to admit, I outgrew the creepy factor of hanging out in cemeteries after college, but I still love them for the romance and mystery of long-lost lives. I could never do the whole picnic in the cemetery and take photos of myself posing in front of strangers' graves (it doesn't sit right with me), but I love to stroll and feel the peaceful sense of mystery and humanity in a beautiful old cemetery.

  3. This is a beautiful post, and it's so interesting to read about the stones and family correlations, dates of death etc. I recently went on a guided tour of a very old cemetery close to my home town, and there were similar patterns emerging there, of when people had died in times of great financial hardship, or whole families wiped out by cholera etc. There is so much hidden history in our graveyards.

  4. I love graveyards as well! They can be spooky which is of course awesome, but I find them restful and inspiring as well, and there are so many different stories to think about. I love your photos!!! And this post is really beautiful :)

  5. Beautiful tribute. I want to visit my mother's grave when I go back to NYC...