Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Littlest Angel

The Littlest of Angels

The Littlest of Angels

Doesn’t it always seem that whenever you go looking for something, especially in cemeteries, something else finds you? I had actually set out to explore a lost cemetery that I had heard about. When I arrived to get the map that the young man at a store had told me he would make for me, he told me that he had not had the time to make it because he had forgotten about Thanksgiving and Black Friday being this week. I have to say that I was disappointed…for about 30 seconds... so, on to unplanned plan B!

There is always a cemetery that I haven’t explored with my new camera. We ended up at a cemetery that was once in the country and is now right next to an interstate bypass. I didn’t know what I was looking for so, as usual, something found me: cemetery angels...all shapes and sizes...some joyous and hopeful … some contemplating their loss. But one in particular silently reached out and touched my heart. It was this smallest of angels sitting in the grass beside a grave crying his little eyes out. He is the little angel who you will see in the pictures accompanying this story.

I don’t know how long this littlest of angels has been grieving over this grave but, I feel as if it has been an eternity. I suppose all of us who love cemeteries may sometimes feel a little jaded. Maybe not jaded, just more aware of the monuments to life instead of what a cemetery really is.. To me, a cemetery is a place that a living, loving human being has chosen with the utmost care as the final resting place for the ones whom they have loved, adored and cherished. I spend hours looking for and photographing angels but just could not stop thinking about this littlest of angles sitting all alone, weeping. I had found cemetery angels to write about. Lots and lots of them and was going to come home and post their photos and stories to my blog. Somehow the word blog sounds harsh and crude, although it is how we communicate our thoughts these days. I suppose that sometimes it takes something small and unexpected to really teach each of us to stop and ponder the real meaning of life on this earth.

Having helped hundreds and probably thousands of families through their most difficult moments I have seen people sometimes puts blinders on as to how much they are loved and how very much they will be missed. So many times we say “just put me in a pine box and bury me” not really wanting to face how much pain and true sorrow those we leave behind will feel. Most of the time we feel the need to protect our loved ones from feeling pain and sorrow over us. Or maybe we will be feeling pain and sorrow in leaving behind those whom we love? We have to admit that to ourselves, it is hard and it is painful to think about death but, it is real. Ignoring it or making light of it will not make it not happen, it will just make us loose so many precious moments in time. How many times have we seen people whose home has just been destroyed, hunting and picking through the remains merely looking for photographs? We have all seen them on the news holding a charred frame close to their heart. Why would we then deny ourselves and our loved ones the photographs, the “Kodak moments” if you will, of the rest of our lives by making light of the fact that someone who loves us will be that smallest of grieving angels sitting by our graves with their little hands over their eyes weeping their little hearts out?

When I got home tonight I opened an email from my dear friend, Jim, in it he says "It is hard to believe that it is almost over. I spent time with my parents. I believe the Lord is preparing me for the time when we are separated. It is so hard for me to see my Dad slipping away physically and mentally." It is with love and caring that I write about it in the same story as the littlest weeping angel...The sorrow in my friend’s words illustrates perfectly what I have been trying to say. When we think about our years of life well spent here on this wondrous earth, we really never think about them slowly winding down to months, then days, then minutes and then slipping forever into eternity...but, we should...We need to stop and realize that we cannot stop the pain and sorrow that those who love us dearly will feel and it is selfish for us to take that away from them.. In that sorrow and grief lies the true depth that we loved and were loved. After all isn’t that the greatest of gifts that God has given us.... except for eternal life?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Strong Family Cemetery

Look at this cemetery that I found today!!...My neighbor, Cheryl, Mitch and I decided to take a long drive today to the southern part of the state that we don’t normally go to…whenever we drive anywhere we play the cemetery game...Mitch and I try to point out every cemetery that we see…my friend, Marcia, and her husband, Johnny Bart, play car wash...every time they see a car wash on a trip they call it out…I guess it is like car bingo…

Anyway, we like the cemetery game…as we were driving south, I spotted a tiny cemetery with Ivy covered trees and a hand laid stone wall…it only had about 12 graves in it and no room for more…I made Mitch turn around and let me out...As I walked up to the cemetery I found that it had a beautiful gate that was wide open..the cemetery is very lovingly kept…Sometime next week I am going to go back and take some rubbing of the stones so that I can read them..the markers are actually monuments beautifully carved with symbols on them..I can’t wait to see them again…I found that the Strong family of Clark County, Arkansas are buried there…there is a house next door and I will ask the owners to tell me the history of the cemetery and its occupants….it looked like the last burial was in 2002 and the oldest was in the mid 1800’s…

I have seen a lot of cemeteries in my life and with as much as we have traveled we have spotted thousands of cemeteries large and small and this one in Clark County is the most charming cemetery that I have ever seen…Talk about resting in peace!!!! The only unusual thing about it was a bright red shovel leaning against one of the monuments…funny how any number of things can run through your mind in a few seconds...I was so entranced with the whole thing that I didn’t take a picture of the shovel…Actually, my neighbor, Cheryl, is scared to death of death..Even though she is a RN...she is afraid of the dead…she said that she will wipe your brow while you take your last breath, but the second you die …she is OUT of the room..Period!!! And she means it so, I had to jump out of the car and get a few pictures while she grilled Mitch as to why I am so enthralled with cemeteries??? Creeps her out...oh, well...I guess there is a place in life and death for all of us.

I will defiantly tell you more when I find out…

Strong Family Cemetery, Clark County, Arkansas

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mother Agnes Hart..

An Arkansas be

I made a pilgrimage today….Two and a half hours east of my hometown of Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, to a tiny spot down a narrow, tree lined road in the middle of vast soybean and rice fields …I found the somewhat abandoned Catholic Church that I was looking for …Saint Martha’s and her tiny cemetery around back….the only witnesses of the day were the bees that lived in the church…

My pilgrimage was to plant red roses at the grave of a nun, some say was Sister Agnes Hart but, the monument states Mother Agnes Hart, who was born in Kentucky in 1797 and moved to Arkansas in 1838. She served with the Sisters of Loretto and came to the area with three other nuns to start the first Catholic school in Arkansas. Mother Agnes wrote desperate letters home in hope that help was on its way...She and the children were starving and getting sick...Sadly, help didn’t arrive in time and Mother Agnes Hart died of malaria a little over a year later in 1839, surrounded by the other nuns and the children whom she taught and loved…

Mother Agnes was first buried in a cemetery along the river...then thirty years later, as the river flooded and tried to change its course, Mother Agnes’ friends and students disinterred her body to move it to higher ground...when they finally reached her body they found that it had miraculously been perfectly preserved and looked as if she had just died that very day! Remember, this is thirty years after her death and embalming was never done…Bodies which have not decomposed are a sign of miraculous intervention, according to Roman Catholic Church….

Why would I, a stranger, make a pilgrimage to a grave of a woman who died some one hundred and twenty years before my birth? Because I wanted to pay homage to a soon to be Saint….Yes, a Saint in the Holy Catholic Church…This little know nun... in a grave in a tiny cemetery hidden within the vast grain fields of South West Arkansas... A full blown Saint, as in the likes of St Francis of Assisi, Saint Andrew and Saint Jude.

Yesterday, all of the television stations in the state were abuzz with the news that the Catholic Diocese of Arkansas was petitioning the Vatican to make Mother Agnes Hart a Saint. …I just had to find her; I wanted to plant the roses, rub the stone that her students and friends so lovingly erected for her in 1885…offer a prayer for her sainthood and request an intervention for myself.

Word has it that there is also a member of the church who was healed of cancer after asking for Mother Agnes to intervene. In order for the Vatican to canonize an individual as a saint, two miracles would need to be confirmed. One already has and I hope that the other will soon.