By Brent Davis, editor of The Saline Courier
I like cemeteries. There it is. I've said it. There are days when I take a visit to one of the local cemeteries to walk around, clear my mind and think. When one opens their mind, it is amazing what one will learn.
During a recent walk through New Rosemont Cemetery in Benton, I came across a headstone with a touching epitaph. Messages found on the older markers were put there to remind of us the person buried nearby or as a means to express the sorrow and grief of those who are left behind on this mortal earth.
The epitaph read: "They gentle voice now is hushed, thy warm true heart is still. And on thy young and innocent brow, is resting death's cold chill. Thy hands are clasped upon they breast, we have kissed thy lovely brow. And in our aching hearts we know, we have no darling now."
I thought about the words so carefully etched into the stone. I thought about the comfort this message gave not just to those who were present way back in the late 1800s when this person died, but also to the family visitors who came later to grieve. Did the family know that more than 100 years later, these very same words written to calm the spirit of loved ones would impact a passing reader with no particular knowledge of ancestry involved?
Probably not, I decided. At moments of grief, we are often "in the moment" and not specifically thinking of the future beyond our pain.
As I walked through the newer areas of the cemetery, the epitaphs contained fewer words, until the information on the markers was nothing more than who the person was, when they were born, when they died and, if they had been married, the date of the ceremony.
It struck me that these differences in generations on display through epitaphs are symbolic of our times. We, as a society, seem to be more interested in the who and where than the how, why and what.
Could it be that our society has become too busy to care or simply too lazy to wonder beyond the basic facts? Are we so rushed that the time simply isn't present to slow down, climb into the moment and read?
I don't believe there is one absolute, true fact that may be attributed to these questions as answers. I believe the answer is caste upon each individual to determine. Do we really want to know? Or would we rather have the bits and pieces upon which we may draw shaky conclusions?
For me, I prefer to find out for myself, to dig through the message and to seek the truth of the matter.
The family who placed this particular marker in its particular location didn't appear to be in a rush. And thank God they weren't. If they had, the blessing of their actions would have been lost for a walker of cemeteries 100 years later.