Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Pleasant Mound

Cemeteries aren't really for the dead, but for the comfort of their living remainders.  The older the stone, the more of that comfort they provide, at least up to the point in time when weather and lichens render them illegible and they become mysteries to ponder. 

Yesterday I walked a cemetery called Pleasant Mound, a moniker which conjures up some odd images if you don't happen to be right there looking at it.  The reality is that it lies peacefully dotted with gray stones and old maples on a hillside at the edge of town.  Pleasant Mound is most surely not the place cradling the bones of Matildaville's first inhabitants, but burials here date back to the mid-1800s when much of the area had become settled, the forest cut back, and the place was humming with the business of lumberjacks and tannery workers.  And when the place was still called Matildaville.

We've been living nearby for about 35 years, which makes us newcomers.  Our kids went to school here, rubbing shoulders with others having the names Stowe, Hennessy, Hepburn, Irish, Arbuckle, Thomas; the same names I saw yesterday in Pleasant Mound on old, weather-worn stones.  In the peace of this place, I wondered how many of those kids ever come here, curious about the great-grandfather or long-dead cousin lying at rest.  How many realize the comfort of knowing - and being among - their own roots?

After my mother's death, I began researching my family tree.  The search started online and eventually led me to small towns in Northumberland County, Ontario.  There I found cemeteries very much like Pleasant Mound, and there I paid my respects to people whose names I had only recently become aware of, gently passing my fingers across the old stone, plucking high grass from around them, and photographing my discoveries in the hope that someday my own kids might also be moved by the history I had uncovered.

My grandparents' ashes have resided in a metal urn for over ninety years waiting for someone to figure out what to do with them.  My parents' ashes were scattered from an island where we'd spent many happy times.  I suppose my own will be the problem of my children.  As ancestors, we'll take up less space, but we'll rob our descendants of the experience of running their fingers across fading letters on weathered stones in comforting places with names like Pleasant Mound.