Tales From, Well, Not Really the Crypt, But a Cemetery

Diamond Grove

the cemetery of dark stones and beautiful owls

Back to the Illinois cemetery where the little horned owl was rescued…It is also the site of unmarked graves for patients from the former Illinois State Hospital, one of Dorothea Dix’s legacy.  My brother told me about how haunting it was (not how haunted it was), which was the original prompt for the graveyard visit.  Owlie was just a bit of serendipity and an amazing diversion.

The State Hospital grave markers were about a foot tall, made of a stone that had darkened over time, a marked contrast to the stark white, well-weathered stone that marks most of the old graves in that particular cemetery.  The square posts tapered into a pyramid, guarded by a plain marker that stood over them and justified their existence in a grassy field.  Like many state hospitals, this one had practiced electric shock and lobotomy in the past.  Many of the bodies that lay below the prairie would have experienced these “therapies.”

Somewhere along the way in my life, I got into the habit of looking at every person as (1) someone’s precious child, who was once adoringly cradled in someone’s arms (not entirely true, unfortunately, but true in most cases; maternal hormones can be mighty forces in bonding–trust me on this) and (2) a bubble, a world in itself, traveling through this larger world, “bumping” into and interacting with–well–other personal bubbles.

The next time you are angry or impatient with someone, give these techniques a trial run.  If it doesn’t reduce you to tears, it will help you see the value in that person and maybe deal with them more kindly.  If they don’t do the same for you, however…back to square one…heh heh heh.  (Honestly, I concede that some of these precious “people bubbles” do get a bit clouded, twisted, and malformed along the way…but their initial value remains.)  My views may have developed in part as the result of a very difficult but enlightening exercise I participated in as part of a teachers’ retreat while working for a Catholic school.  We were asked to clearly picture the person who was the single biggest “thorn” in our lives…and to pray for that person.  Yikes!  It was incredibly hard to do, but it was an appropriate application of Christian principles–a great change from the old knuckle-whacking days of nuns, to be sure.  I’ve always said that Jesus isn’t a hater…

Back to the cemetery AGAIN:  Each dark pyramid marked the remains of a body that was once held as someone’s precious baby, who represented great love and a bright hope for the future.  I can’t imagine what derailed a life and a mind so far off the track, so much that the bonds of family support were broken.  I wish this tale came to a happy conclusion here, but I don’t have one.  I just have the observation that it was very, very sad.

(I’m glad we found the owl.)


~ by rebuildingholly on May 4, 2012.

2 Responses to “Tales From, Well, Not Really the Crypt, But a Cemetery”

  1. I love the sentiments in this essay. Bubbles. It makes it all so much gentler.
    And the cemetery. I seek them out on a journey.

    • There is a lot to learn from cemeteries. They are not the bleak places most people consider them to be. We noticed that people are leaving lots of little “totems” these days–a very touching sign of love.

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