Tromping around cemeteries is something I’ve been doing for a very long time. It’s often where you find some beautiful statuary, interesting facts, and peace. I’ve always thought it a pity that Americans don’t have more of a European sensibility about cemeteries where they’re often considered additional parks.
At Fort Leavenworth a few months ago I took some photos in the cemetery there. I was struck by the individuality demonstrated on these “identical” stones. People often have a religious symbol at the top and include a list of their service. Sometimes there’s an additional line that says something about the person.
Summing up a life in a few words has always seemed like risky business to me. I’m not sure what I’d want people to read about me for the next few decades or centuries, however long it lasts. Maybe this is why most people default to the most basic of things, “Beloved Mother,” or something like that. We have difficulty deciding what it should say so we leave it to those left behind, and in a desire to be accurate and meaningful they return to roles we’ve played in this lifetime.
I will probably always question what this man’s family was trying to say with the inscription, “God Forgive His Sorrowful Heart.” Obviously, they are religious people, offering an entreatment to God here. But one can’t help but believe the man buried here, Robert Lee Fowler, had a difficult 59 years that led to a heart so sorrowful it’s what is preserved in stone. May his new life be one of much more joy.
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