Updated: Mar 9, 2022
We believe a cemetery is the best place, the only place, that a loved one will be remembered and honored for the rest of time. Why would a nation set aside so much valuable property, just to inter the human dead? What value is there in returning, again and again, to visit the graves of those who have gone on before us?
Renée Tanner says regarding Emma Lamb Barnes Baker: “I couldn’t help feel a bit sad to find she had no children of her own. But then I thought, ‘I am here, 92 years after her death, learning from her and thinking about her and visiting her grave and recording her story for others to see.’
A friend of mine in the cemetery business says,
“Nowhere else but a cemetery is the story of a community so well written.”
Historical articles from the Greenwood staff are not writing a story, but recording a story already written by the men and women who sacrificed so much, not just for this nation’s freedom, but for the freedom of the entire world. Greenwood has a role to play in the recording of these stories and protecting and honoring the memory of those who wrote them.
Our history books and tours and our obituary and newspaper collection are part of “marketing” an ideal that runs counterculture to the practice of so many (in scattering anywhere or in doing nothing with the cremains). It is up to us to turn the tide, not to make money for a cemetery, but to present people with the best option, which should be the only option, a place where this person they love will have a spot of land, a piece of the earth, where they will be remembered forever.
In my daily travels around the cemetery, I pass by graves of our town’s residents who died more than a century ago. Their graves are as well attended to as those of people buried here only a few months ago. Walkers-by read their names, a 17-year-old baseball player places a flag on the grave of a veteran from the Civil War, parents bring their children to show them the graves of their great-great-grandparents, a young woman sits on a blanket next to her husband’s resting place.
Heritage is reclaimed, whether it is familial or community or national. We are here because of them. The community we appreciate so much is here because of them—they took their part in the building of it and then passed the torch to us.
Why is a cemetery important?
• It reminds us that others were here before us, some were pioneers, some were dreamers, some were builders, some were maintainers—and they all had a part.
• It reminds us, as we look at the headstones, to remember that life is short. Consider, “Hiram Obed Rose, 1830-1911,” that it is important what we do with the dash between the dates. H.O. Rose was a pioneer entrepreneur who made the most of his 81 years. A cemetery reminds us that there is a beginning and an end to this life, and it gives us hope for the years in between.
Wander the paths of Greenwood. Read the names: “Curtis,” “Waukazoo,” “Porter,” “Ingalls,” and match them up to the streets of our town and surrounding townships.
Read the inscriptions on the military markers “Killed on Okinawa” or “WWII, Korea, Vietnam” marking the grave of a man who served in three different wars. It is not morbid; it reminds us in troubled times of the goodness of men and women who gave of themselves to something bigger than themselves.
A cemetery is the place we visit, the place where we are reminded to protect, not to squander, the gift of life we have been given.
— Karl Crawford, superintendent