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Friday, October 31, 2008

My Observations on Cemeteries in North Carolina

We come to the end of the cemeteries I visited while in North Carolina in 2005. I went to 3 different counties - Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln - in search of my ancestors. It was a very strange experience for me. The first difference I noted was that the cemeteries in North Carolina are not regulated to a few acres outside of town. Just about everywhere you find a church, there is a cemetery right next to it. Cemeteries are located right next to the Bi-Lo Grocery stores and the Waffle Houses. Everywhere you look, you'll see cemeteries. I have to tell you that it really creeped me out when I first arrived.

Most cemeteries in California are located on the outskirts of town. My feeling is that it was done this way because having to look at a cemetery all the time is bad for business and new housing developments. "Out of sight, out of mind". It is too sad to have to look at a cemetery everyday. West Coast people only want "Happy Thoughts". Yes they deal with death, but they deal with it as quickly as possible and then try to forget about it. My father died in 1988. He is buried in Fresno, about 3 hours from where I live. I am ashamed to tell you that I have not been to visit his grave since the day we buried him.

I was very nervous about just driving right up to a headstone, get out of the car, take pictures - like I was a tourist on vacation. Where I come from, you just don't go walking around in a cemetery. Not unless you have been double-dog- dared on a cold and windy night by a bunch of juvenile delinquents. Or so I am told.

Unlike most West-Coasters, the East Coasters like to keep their dear ones close to them. Even if they've been dead for over 150 years. I notice that the people in North Carolina have a way different attitude towards death than most people I know in California. Death isn't a scary thing to them. The graves I saw in these 3 counties were all well cared for. Most had fresh flowers. It didn't seem to matter if the person had died 1 day ago or 100,000 days ago. Visiting kin at the cemetery is something you do.

After spending a couple of weeks in these counties I got over the creepiness by telling myself , "Self - you are a professional and you are here doing your job. Remember that job you love so much?" Slowly, without my even noticing right away, I was pulling a weed or two, bringing flowers with me in case I found an ancestor that day and felt myself connecting with these people who basically gave me life.

Each one that I shared with you was a pioneer in the tri-county area - John Teeter Beam and his son John Beam, Peter Hoyle and his son Michael Hoyle, Sebastian Bess and All arriving around 1740-1760 and there are descendants of all these men still living on the same land to this very day!


Judith Richards Shubert said...

Wonderful account of your North Carolina visits. Enjoyed it very much. I just returned from visiting the Outer Banks and the Blue Ridge Parkway areas of North Carolina where I, too, saw a cemetery at every turn and a little country church to go with it!