Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cemetery Tales - Joy and Sorrow

I heard some extremely good and some extremely bad news this week.

The good news is........


What a great pairing.  Now when people go in and look for their ancestors they can also search for photos of the headstones.  This month Billion Graves had a goal for 1 million new records for the month of May.  We have all been encouraged and bribed (smile) to get out there and photograph, photograph, photograph.  The top 30 people who do photos or transcriptions will win fabulous prizes.  I think currently I am sitting at about number 15 with over 5000 uploads for May.  Not too shabby when you consider I took a trip to New Mexico in there.  If I can stay between number 11 and 20 I will win a Billion Graves plus account for a year and a t-shirt!  I would really like the plus account.  It will allow me to submit many of our family surnames and whenever anyone in the world takes a photo of the headstone and submit it, I would get a notification.  That would be sweet.  I already have a t-shirt from them that I don't wear.  I'm just not a t-shirt kind of gal, I guess.

Now for the very bad news.

A very good friend of ours who has been battling cancer has been sent home from the hospital to hospice care. He probably has a couple of weeks left. He teaches with Mike and he and his wife have been friends of ours for many many years.  What a talented man. He is funny, a magician, and artist, and has a fantastic singing voice.  I heard him sing "Oh My Father" at a funeral once and told him I wanted him to sing it at mine.  I guess that won't be happening.  I pray for his peaceful passing and for comfort and peace to his family.  Love you, Kyle and Julie.

Cemetery Tales - Joy and Sorrow

I have been trying to finish up photographing a cemetery that I started in March.  This place has a personality all it's own. 

Most cemeteries I do draw the curious.  Invariably I will have someone come up and talk to me about what I'm doing.  It's a rare cemetery that I photo that this doesn't happen.  The one I'm trying to complete is just such a place.  I've spent a few hours there over the last week, during the height of the Memorial Day grave-decorating ritual, and have seen hundreds of people dutifully cleaning off headstones, arranging flowers, and standing around with heads bowed silently contemplating.  And not one of these people has come up to me to ask what I'm doing.  Not even when I walk right past them or around them. Sure I can see them looking at me with curiosity, but they must have a strict code of privacy and respect everyone's right to do their own thing. That's one issue with this place that has been a bit different. 

Today I took a couple of photos that almost made me cry. There were pictures on 2 headstones, a young couple and their 1 and 3 year old daughters.  The dates told a story.  All three females died on the same day in January. Probably a car accident due to slick roads.  On the back of the headstones was a letter written from the lone family survivor, the husband and father.  It was very touching and made me choke up.  I hope he did okay in the 12 years since that happened.

The other thing I noticed was the abundance of VERY COOL NAMES!!!!  I kind of collect these cool names in case I ever want to write a book.  These would make very cool characters.
Names like:
  • Mahonri Moriancumr Jones
  • Curney Carlson
  • Trilba Lowder
  • Electa Oram
  • Claxton Foster
  • Darsel Morgan
  • Della Ouldhouse
  • Nephi Dansie
  • Emery Hubbard
  • Stillman Campbell
  • Parley Tall
But my favorite of all time has to be a guy whose first name was "Part"

Yes, his name was Part.  And his last name was "Ball".  That's right.  His name was Part Ball. and the best part was his wife.  She went by the moniker "Chestie".  I really think I want to meet these people after I pass over. 

I'll bet they're awesome.  You'd have to be to pull off the names Chestie and Part Ball.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cemetery Tales - The Ones I Leave Behind

The best part about photographing cemeteries?   The history. 
     I love seeing the names, dates, family groupings, headstone designs through the ages, other people paying their respects to loved ones.

The worst part about it?  Passing by without taking a photo. 
     Sometimes the stone is just too worn out to read anything.  I hate not taking a photo.  I really really hate it. I feel like I'm letting the person down.  Like they weren't worth the effort.  Sometimes I take a photo anyway because I just hate all that guilt from NOT taking it.  But I don't really think anyone is going to be able to decipher it.  And usually they are half buried and I just don't have the energy to dig it out.  Then I feel like I'm being lazy.

Anyway, I passed by many of these kinds of headstones today.  Each time I would whisper a "sorry" and move on to the next.  What do you think?  Should I take them or not?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


On our way home from Albuquerque our little group stopped for the night in Monticello, Utah.  We arrived late, about 10:00 pm. The motel we stopped at was surprised that we required 4 rooms for the 4 of us.  He looked a little concerned and went to look at his available vacancies.  Finally he reluctantly came back with 4 keys. These were actual keys, it was not a new motel. I took one of the keys and went to my room.

As I opened the door, a musty, funky smell hit me in the face.  It was as if this room was not used very often.  I turned on the air conditioning full blast to try and blow some fresher air into the room.  I plugged in the mini fridge and was glad that it started to get cold. I placed my drink and yogurt inside.  Next I went in the bathroom and started a bath.  I was looking forward to relaxing in the hot water.  I had sore muscles from a few days of hiking through zoos, aquariums, parks, and museums.  I was not used to that much walking.

As I was soaking in the tub I was kind of annoyed at the overhead light in the bathroom.  It kept flickering on and off, on and off. I thought it must have a short in the wire and someone walking on the floor above must be jiggling the wires enough to disrupt the circuit. But no one was walking upstairs.  I could hear the tv upstairs clearly, the walls were thin. No walking.

After I got out and dressed for night, I climbed in bed and started to read my book.  I kept seeing flashes of shadow out of the corner of my eye, so I got out of bed and pinned the curtain shut with a needle I had.  No outside light was entering my room.  I got back in bed and again saw shadows.   I started to get a "feeling".  I wasn't scared.  I don't get scared easily, but it was an uneasiness.  I turned off the light and tried to go to sleep.  It was difficult to relax and fall asleep, even though I had taken a sleeping pill. Finally I drifted off and slept for about an hour.  My dreams were fitful and unsettling.  I can't remember what they were, but I remember feeling anxious in them. Then I remembered standing in a room and having an icy cold blast of air go through me, not like air going around my body in a wind, but right through me and I suddenly bolted awake as I exhaled frigid air from my mouth. I was wide awake when I felt the cold air come out of my mouth.

I had been humming and singing a particular hymn the day before, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow", and immediately started softly singing it again.  That was not unusual.  I often find myself singing hymns in the middle of the night when I wake up for various reasons.  The uneasy feeling went away and I went right back to sleep.

About 30 minutes passed when "something" woke me up with a start.  My eyes popped open.  I fully expected to see someone or something standing right above me. That's when I said a very quick prayer.  "Heavenly Father, please protect me and give me peace and help me get the sleep I need for tomorrow's drive."  That's all I said and then I fell asleep immediately.

I woke in the morning without any further interruptions. 

At no time was I really afraid.  I could tell something was trying to frighten me.  Fear is what gives power to darkness. I knew God's power was more powerful and that gave me peace. The dark side has the power to try to bother us, but we have full access to God's power to make them leave.