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Cemetery Visits and Photos

November 3, 2010

Over the last week I have visited at least fifteen cemeteries in Natchitoches, Sabine and Red River Parishes, and what I have seen has sparked several reactions.  I am glad that so many cemeteries seem to receive at least some measure of regular attention, be it landscaping, flowers on graves, or annual “homecoming” events.  I am moved by the emotional inscriptions, both those from the living in tribute to the dead and those left by the dead as inspiration–or warning–to the living.  I smile and sometimes laugh out loud at the humor some people exhibit, both about life and death.  I am depressed by some markers that appear to have been knocked over on purpose, vandalized or cleaned in a manner detrimental to their physical integrity.  I am intrigued by some of the mementos, statuary, landscaping and other rituals and practices of remembering a loved one.

Spider on grave

I had initially feared that most of the rural cemeteries I found would be in run-down and dilapidated condition, forgotten by the families and friends who used to take care of these often sacred sites.  Happily, this is not the case.  In fact, every cemetery I saw over the last two weeks shows signs of being cared for on a regular basis.  Grass is being cut and a very limited amount of markers show signs of sinking into the ground.  Many graves have silk flowers in various types of vases or urns.

I was extremely pleased to see so many cemeteries with trash cans.  Giving visitors a means of disposing of their trash is a simple and effective way of reducing litter in the cemetery and helps keep the site’s appearance attractive.  It also sends the message that this place is important and people still care about it.

Several cemeteries posted the rules and regulations of the site at the front gate.  It is important to let people know what is and is not permitted at each site regarding burials, decorations, vegetation and fencing.  Some signage informs visitors when the annual gathering will be.  One of the most important things to do when wanting to preserve a cemetery is to find out who manages the site and get their permission before acting.  I was glad to see some cemeteries with contact information posted up front.

Just as rewarding as seeing so many sites still receiving loving attention has been the response from friends online who have seen the photo albums I have posted on Facebook.  I had not imagined that I would get so many questions and comments about individual graves, as well as suggestions for other cemeteries to visit.

I hope to have the opportunity to clean some of the graves that need attention in a respectful and professional manner.

The following series of posts will discuss each cemetery individually, with some graves or overall conditions being discussed in more detail.  When reading, please keep the following in mind:

1) I am by no means a professional photographer.
2) I used a Nikon Coolpix camera for most of the photos.  A select few may have been taken with my phone.
3) I did not take these photos in an effort to fully document everything in each cemetery.  Such an effort would require several photos of each grave, as well as records of materials, marker types, landscape info, and much more data than I was concerned with collecting.
4) I took photos of most of the things that stood out to me in some way.  These may include unusual names, interesting inscriptions–literary or artistic–old dates of death, copings, statuary, non-standard materials, homemade markers, Woodmen of the World markers, damaged markers, signage, trash cans, the surrounding landscape and nearby churches.  Sometimes I photographed something only once, though it may have occurred several times.  The photos I took do not indicate that what is photographed is more important or more worth saving than what was not photographed.
5) I was not necessarily looking for the biggest, the fanciest, the oldest, the “prettiest” or any other superlative.  In some cases I took photos of plain, unmarked blocks of stone or unhewn rocks to remind myself that not every grave has a formal marker, and not everything that is unmarked is an empty space.

As you read through these posts and look through the albums, please try to think of cemeteries as living spaces for the living.

Enjoy.

Statue of a face carved into a wooden log

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