Tuesday, July 24, 2012

rising and shining

I'm not talking about a perky attitude when we first get up in the morning.

Let me explain. 

You may recall that I have more than a passing interest in genealogy. I come by this naturally as both of my grandmothers shared this interest and collected a fair amount of information about our respective forebears. Nice as it is to have been handed that wealth of data, it doesn't provide many opportunities for sleuthing on my part to unearth new branches of the tree or solve any pending mysteries. Lucky for me I have Ken's family to search, as well as the families of both my son- and daughter-in-law. Yes-siree, I just love filling in those blanks, and I've been having a good time!

One thing about genealogists, we are pretty good about scratching each others backs and sharing data. We also take pictures of tombstones of people to whom we're not related and don't hold any interest for us personally. There's a web site called "Find a Grave" that is the meeting place for searchers and finders, and I'm identified with that site as a volunteer who will go in search of a local grave for someone who isn't able to make the hunt themselves. It's amazing the number of requests that have come in for people who are buried in my county.

One such request came yesterday, for a gentleman not so terribly long deceased and buried in a cemetery barely off the path of my route to and from work. Ken and I have an engagement on the heels of my arrival home tonight, so I decided this morning that I would leave a few minutes early and stop by the cemetery with my camera. The big question: would the inscription be in sunlight or shadow?

While I was driving to the cemetery I began thinking about the practice of orienting graves. This is something about which I feel I should know, given that a part of my priestly job description includes burying people, and one of my avocations is photographing headstones. Alas, this knowledge eludes me. As I was mulling all this over while I negotiated the tight curves of the road leading to the cemetery, I was reminded of a notation among the records of one of my ancestors. As I recall the family lived in the mountains of western North Carolina. It is written that the ancestor remarked that he would be glad to be buried in this part of God's creation because he couldn't imagine a finer sight than to rise on a particular spot when it came time for his resurrection. I call that planning for the future!

The question that lurks is this: is there a preferred direction in which to be buried? Do we want to face east to the rising sun? There are distinct theological opinions about the significance of north, east, south and west, although I don't think many people are aware of such things any more. Does anyone even care? Does your place of final repose matter to you, and if so, why?

When I reached the cemetery I was disappointed to discover that all inscriptions faced west and were in shadow. Sure, they could still be photographed, but the photographer and artist within me wouldn't settle for that. I will have to go back on another day and take my time documenting the place where a number of lives were laid to rest. I pray they anticipate with gladness the day that they, like my ancestor, will rise and shine.

1 comment:

The Bug said...

If I had children I might think differently, but I don't plan to be buried anywhere - I'm going to be cremated & it's up to those left behind what they want to do with my cremains. And isn't that sad since I'm a historian's wife? Ha!

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