Care for your dead

My dad had surgery on his wrist recently, limiting what he can do around the house and in his yard. Not being able to clean or mow the lawn or take care of his truck is hard for him because he’s always busy. Last weekend our family drove to his house to try to help out, but instead of giving us assignments around his home we ended up in the cemetery down the road, where part of our family is buried.

When we saw him loading the truck with dirt and shovels we were a bit concerned about what we were helping with. Our 10-year old told us we were filling in graves. That was alarming to say the least.

But, no, we weren’t filling in a fresh grave. Instead we were adding dirt on top of a grave that had sunk somewhat over the years. Dad said it was most likely a grave without a vault and instead only a casket, causing the ground to settle some over the years.

The cemetery is an old one, with many of the graves dating to before the Civil War. My dad’s grandparents, his great grandparents and great aunts and uncles are buried there, as is my sister, who died when my mom was seven months pregnant. She would have been my older sister.

 Dad is a caretaker, in a way, of the cemetery, probably because he’s on the board and lives so closes to it.


Where I’m from we take care of our dead by trying to keep their graves from falling completely apart, even though it’s hard when the really old stones crack and break and  fall over.  Still, Dad tries to make sure someone  mows the lawn and old flags and flowers are pulled off the graves when they start to fade in the sun.

I guess caring for our dead reminds us of them and what we learned from them. 

Even though we were there to help him, I kept catching Dad lifting and carrying heavy objects if we didn’t move fast enough or I got distracted by taking photographs and didn’t grab the wheelbarrow.

Miss G surveyed it all from the safety of “papa’s” truck cab as it started to rain while we worked. 

After we laid the dirt down on a couple of sunken areas in the cemetery we laid hay on stop and sprinkled grass seeds to help the grass grow.

Miss G decided she’d keep working when we got back to the house and Grandpa gave her a spade so she could dig in the dirt near his hostas and tulips. Luckily she only plucked a couple of tulip tops off . I was actually surprised with how long she spent working on her “project” (digging one hole and filling it and then moving dirt from one  pile to another.) That night she turned the bath water brown, which to me signifies the end of a very good day.