My first blog in this reinvention has got to be about cemetery visitation. For me, a walk through an old cemetery is relaxing. And it’s a great place to learn for anyone of any age. What can be taught at a cemetery?
History – what illnesses were rampant at that time? If there are five graves in the same time frame, some illness or event must have occurred. To what historical events were the deceased probably a witness?
Respect – watch where you walk, don’t trample the graves, set upright any flags that may have fallen over.
Geology, Architecture and Period Design– This is my FAVORITE part of cemetery work.
For your next cemetery visit, please observe these rules:
- It’s considered disrespectful to walk over a grave. Try to step around if possible. And do I even have to mention that climbing on a tombstone is wrong?
- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER “rub” a tombstone. That will destroy the stone, especially old ones that are not as thick and are not engraved as deeply as newer stones are. I will share with you how to read a tombstone that is hard to read.
- Be careful. Tombstones, especially old ones, can fall over easy. They are heavy enough to break bones and have killed people. For the same reason, watch where you walk and do not run in a cemetery. If you fall; you will get hurt.
- If you see that a flag has fallen over, set it upright. If you see trash, pick it up. If a stone has been vandalized or needs attention, let the cemetery staff know about it.
- Feel free to walk around. Historically, cemeteries were the nation’s first parks. They were constructed with long, winding driveways and benches for sitting. They were made for visits.
I’m sure I can add more rules, but I want people to enjoy my column and maybe take a trip or two to their local cemetery.
My favorite local cemeteries are Elmwood in Columbia; Quaker Cemetery in Camden; Old Presbyterian in Camden, my family graveyards on Fort Jackson; and the Methodist cemetery in downtown Ridgeway. I love it when people suggest a cemetery to me, especially if it is off the beaten path. In my blog, I’ll try to introduce you to some of those as well. There will be a little history, a lot of humor, and nothing too morbid (at least not to me).
I’ll close today’s lesson with two great ways to read an “unreadable” tombstone:
- Grind up chalk in a blender and with your hand (hand, I tell you!), rub it onto the stone. The words will jump out at you.
- Use cheap flour. Place it in your hand and RUB it GENTLY onto the stone. During of my boy’s school projects, it suddenly occurred to me that flour plus water (i.e. rain), equal GLUE. Although this type of glue is very water soluble (it will come off) – It will take several rains to wash this mixture off. Take a brush and water with you. Brush off all excess when you are done and then give it a good rinse before you leave. The next rain storm will take care of the rest.
- Take aluminum foil, tear off a sheet and hold it onto the stone. With your finger or the eraser tip of a pencil, lightly press into the stone until the words pop out. This takes time, patience and foil is kind of expensive. But the results are cool looking.
My next blogs will contain photos and I’ll begin teaching. Our subjects:
- What materials, finishes and designs make a “good” tombstone? Why should I have a stone?
- How are tombstones made?
- How are the words put on a stone?
- How to care for a headstone without damaging it.
- Why do headstones tilt? How do you fix it?
- How were people buried in different historical time frames?
- Symbols and headstones.
- Tours of Elmwood, Quaker and other historical cemeteries. Feel free to suggest something local you think I’d like to see.