Finding peace and beauty in an unexpected place

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Sometimes life catches us off guard. We are humming, or struggling along and then whammo — something or other causes us to stand down, stunned. A great pregnant pause on our personal timeline where from that moment on we can look back on it and say "yeah wow, I remember when " and reflect on the immense self discovery incurred while blindsided.

I had just such a moment when my family and I attended the "Dellwood Stories Come Alive" event held at Dellwood Cemetery on July 6.

I showed up to the cemetery reluctantly as we have had quite a bit of sadness in our family over the past few months and I really wasn't sure that being surrounded by gravestones would be a super swell idea. But I also felt that it might be therapeutic to be in a cemetery for festive reasons. After all, it was only in last week's paper that I wrote about how human nature has a tendency to avoid things that we are afraid of, so this week I heeded my words and faced a space that could prove difficult for me.

We swept into Dellwood along with a very decent crowd. I began to absorb the eager, positive vibe of the people around me and as I always do, I began to chit-chat. Almost immediately I was struck by how cool this event was and what a good family experience it was going to be for us.

Elsewhere in this newspaper is a fantastic write-up by Cherise Madigan covering all the angles of this event; take a moment to go and read it if you have not already ok, are you back? So you can see how the night was turning out to be a blast: gorgeous weather while we strolled around gorgeous grounds. Talented actors carrying out interesting portrayals; serious fun and I'm into it! I'm grinning and writing down things and snapping photos and chatting and loving on the ginormous trees and the artful gravestones that carry such history it feels like an art gallery when viewing them.

Big build up here, people, because as the warm, summer wind lifts the berries on the mulberry tree I am standing under, it dawns on me that graveyards like this one need not be full of only sadness and angst. The words Kim Rizio, the vice president of Manchester Historical Society and a Dellwood Cemetery board member, had spoken to me just moments earlier suddenly carried the full beautiful brevity of their meaning. She answered when I asked why they are doing an event like this here, "Because as odd as it sounds, we want people to know how alive this place is! Dellwood Cemetery is exquisite and should be visited." Yes, that!

Rizio told me that back in the day, families would visit for picnics and for fishing in the pond. Ladies would sashay along the paths enjoying the blissful scenery. People would visit the stones of deceased loved ones and spend the day there tidying the space and reflecting on good memories in much the same inspired way as Dia De Los Muertos. In these modern times gatherings like that are uncommon, but let it be stated that it is no fault of the cemeteries, they remain as they have always been: accommodating, peaceful and as is the case at Dellwood, simply overflowing with natural beauty.

Those statues stand century at the entrance welcoming us in. Encouraging us to walk the grounds and take in the history of the gravestones, or to find consolation for our heavy heart among the lush greenery that enfolds. To meditatively follow the paths even if we have no personal loved ones buried there, and to sit gazing toward the mountains thinking of nothing at all but how gorgeous the day is.

I imagine that entering a cemetery after having been pummeled by deaths is not on everyone's to-do list, but the surprising sense of relief and support? I felt that evening was such that I wanted to share here in the hopes that for some of you, a visit here might also be a therapeutic, healing experience. Dellwood Cemetery is indeed so ridiculously gorgeous that of course I figured the common soul would easily adore it, but me? This sad, unsuspecting human was completely, beautifully knocked off guard and her heart is all the better for it.

I leave you with a quote from one of the stones in the Roberts family plot, "In life we are united, in death we are not separated."

Thank you, Dellwood Cemetery, for showing me there is always beauty to be found in this world. Always.

Tina Weikert lives in Bondville.

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