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Archive for the ‘death’ Category

Remember summer?  It seems so long ago! Not the hot part–that lasted well into October here–but the not-being-in-school-and-having-daily-adventures part, which ended for us in early August.

We’ve had adventures since then, if not so many; what I lack is the time to share them here.  But since I have a spare moment, I’m going to write a few words about our lovely fall weekend.

I love fall so much that I really can’t stop smiling when I’m outside at this time of year! And I’m blessed to live in a part of the country that really knows how to put on a fall colors show.  Plus there is always something going on every weekend–multiple things, actually.

The Farmer’s Market will only be happening for a few more weeks, so Emily, Lorelei, and I headed downtown first thing on Saturday.   We hadn’t counted on the football game.  No, we didn’t get caught in traffic, but the normally free and plentiful downtown parking sported Event Pricing of $20.  This being Knoxville, that meant we had to park five whole blocks away and pay the meter about three dollars.  On the bright side, it was a beautiful day for a stroll.

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We had hot apple cider and pumpkin bread, enjoyed free entertainment provided by the various buskers, and bought eggs, cheese, apples, and some vegetables too.  Then we went to the 90th anniversary open house at the Tennessee Theatre.

I first set foot in the Tennessee Theatre in the 1970s, watching Gone with the Wind for the very first time, courtesy of my grandmother.  I was so lucky to be introduced to it in exactly the kind of place it was made to be seen! Knoxville’s “Grand Entertainment Palace” narrowly escaped demolition around 1980, and underwent extensive restoration and renovation in 2005.  It’s truly a treasure and it was such a treat to get to go backstage to explore the dressing rooms and the green room, to see the Mighty Wurlitzer organ up close, and have time to take all the pictures I wanted.

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We dropped off Lorelei to volunteer for Feral Feline Friends of East Tennessee while we had coffee at my sister’s house, then went home and finished off our fall fun by taking the dog to the park.

Sunday morning Lorelei, William, and I went to Mass (John being under the weather).  Our parish has a rosary procession at the Catholic Cemetery on the first Sunday of November, and I wanted to go, but since circumstances did not permit, I decided to honor the dead in my own way.  After we ran errands and I returned the kids and the groceries to the house, I went off to explore a graveyard a bit closer to home.  A reader of one of my other cemetery posts alerted me to the existence of Pleasant Chapel Cemetery.

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I will write more about it later after I’ve had a chance to do a little research.  It has been way too long since I visited a new graveyard.  It was so peaceful there.  I wish I could share the smell of the leaves and the dirt and the sounds of chirping insects so you could experience the full atmosphere.  Anyway, I was happy to be there and to say a prayer for all the dead, who are unlikely to be Catholic but would surely appreciate the prayers anyway.

fall weekend 1.jpgThen I came home, made coffee, and sat on the front porch to start reading The Gift of Invitation, which I will be reviewing here this week.

It was a perfect fall weekend, and I am sad to see it end.  Now on to Election Day! (Yikes!)  How do you like to spend fall weekends?

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It's so strange that autumn is beautiful, yet everything is dying.- Unknown

As the year dies, it is only natural that our thoughts turn to musings on our own mortality.  For Catholics, Halloween is not only about pumpkins and trick-or-treating; it is the eve of the Feast of All Saints, followed immediately by the Feast of All Souls, days set aside for us to remember and pray for the dead.

As we get older it becomes harder to ignore the fact that every second that passes brings us that much closer to our own deaths.  Children, for whom time seems almost to stand still so that the time between Christmases feels infinite, usually don’t think about the inevitability of death as we do.

But children will encounter death, some sooner than others, and how we prepare them for this and help them deal with it when it comes is important.

There doesn’t have to be some big moment where you sit your kids down and explain death to them.  Better for it to be introduced early, before they can really comprehend it, as a natural process.  You can start with what your kids encounter as they play–dead insects.  If they’ve heard you talking about the fact that an insect is dead from infancy, they’ll always have at least a vague concept of what death is, which you can flesh out later when they have questions.  Tell them that the insect got tired and old and its body couldn’t work anymore, so it was time for it to die.

When they ask questions about their own eventual deaths or yours, it’s best to reassure them by saying that they–and you–are still very young and it will be a long time before you die.  There’s no need to muddy the waters at this point with discussions of death by accident or illness.  Sadly, there will no doubt come a time when you will have to answer those kinds of questions.

My children had their first close encounter with death when my grandmother died.  They were 16, 13, 12, six, and three at the time.  They knew Mima well so they were definitely affected by her death and I felt they should be a part of it.  We told the little ones that, like the insects, Mima was old and her body had worn out, but we also added that she had gone to Heaven to be with God as we all hope to one day. (I personally don’t think that it’s particularly necessary or useful to bring up the concept of Purgatory with little kids right when they are grieving the loss of a loved one.)

We took all the kids with us to the funeral home.  The open casket was at the far end of the room and we let the kids decide whether to approach.  Lorelei and her cousin Ella, who were three and five at the time, were interested and spent time looking at Mima.  William, who was six, did not want to look at her and stayed at the other end of the room.  The children also attended the funeral Mass and the graveside service.

It’s very important not to impose your own–or other people’s–expectations or interpretations on the grieving of children.  They may not look as upset as you think they should look, but don’t make assumptions.  When my dog was hit by a car when I was four, I was very upset, too upset to even talk about it.  I will never forget an adult making the comment that it didn’t seem like I cared very much.  So keep in mind that your children may need space to grieve, or they may need for you to draw them out so that they can express their feelings or ask questions.  I was very impressed by a friend whose husband died when their son was about ten years old.  He wanted to go sit with his friends at the funeral.  Some people might have insisted that he sit up front with the family but she gave him the space he needed and allowed him to find comfort with his friends.

Many children’s first experience with death is the loss of a pet.  My children experienced this for the first time a couple of years ago, when we had to put our elderly dog to sleep.  Lorelei and William accompanied me to the veterinarian and we all supported each other.  I was proud of how brave they were and how they comforted our dog through the process, constantly petting him and reassuring him with loving words.  When kids lose a pet they will almost certainly ask you if the pet will go to Heaven.  The best answer I’ve heard to that question is that when you go to Heaven and want your pet, he will be there.

Like everything else, children will learn more from your actions around death than your words.  Do you talk about how you miss those who have died, or do your avoid discussing uncomfortable feelings?  Do you pray for those who have died and encourage your children to join in? (That’s when you can explain about Purgatory!)  Do you lead by example by attending funerals of those you know whenever possible and encouraging your children to come when appropriate?

My grandfather died when I was 13, and his was the first funeral I ever attended.  For years I was uncomfortable with the whole idea of “viewing” the body, and dreaded going to funerals.  But forcing myself to attend many out of a sense of duty and obligation over the past several years changed my attitude.  In one tragic week several summers ago, a high school friend’s son committed suicide, the father of one of Teddy’s football teammates died in an accident, and the father of one of his classmates committed suicide.  I took Teddy to the funeral of one father, and he accompanied me to take food to the family of the other one.  Set an example for your children with your actions when death touches you, and encourage their participation, and they will internalize the value of these rituals and will not fear them.

This post is part of the Catholic Women Bloggers Network Bloghop.  For more writing on this topic, click below.

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A little over a year ago, almost all our family (Jake excepted) took a short vacation together.  Going on vacation all in the same car was something we thought we’d sworn off forever, but this was a quickly planned journey.

John’s uncle was sick, and he wasn’t getting better.  John felt strongly that we needed to get up to Baltimore to see him, and soon.  It turns out he was right.

We had a wonderful couple of visits with Uncle Boh.  He’d been in the hospital right before we arrived, and had to go back almost right after we left, but he was home while we were there, and we were able to share meals and conversation.  It was truly a blessing, as he died less than two weeks later.

We couldn’t burden Uncle Boh and Aunt Barbara with our company the entire time we were in town, obviously.  So we took the opportunity to see some sights.

Even when you’ve spent as much time visiting one place (Baltimore) as we have, there’s always something new to explore if you look! We visited Harpers Ferry, West Virginia one day and the Baltimore Museum of Art the other.

John and I had been to Harpers Ferry close to 30 years before, but I had only the vaguest memories of that rainy day visit.  We were blessed with incredible weather this trip, which made for some beautiful pictures that I am excited to share here.  Unfortunately, my waiting so long to memorialize this trip means that this post will be long on pictures and short on explanations.

If you’ve heard of Harpers Ferry at all, it will be in connection with John Brown and his failed attempt here to abolish slavery via armed insurrection.  You’ll learn plenty about those events if you visit.

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That, obviously, is the man himself!  Below you’ll see the building where he and his men holed up.

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Harpers Ferry is full of history with displays in several of the buildings on the main street.

There are also shops and restaurants to explore along the main thoroughfare and side streets.  Harpers Ferry is a stopping point along the Appalachian Trail so there is some serious hiking gear available.

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There’s an historic home to visit and a church (and the remains of a church) to investigate.

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Situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, it’s also a place of extraordinary natural beauty.

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Looking back at this visit one year later, I still remember how beautiful everything was and how happy we were.  It was one of those perfect days.

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The next day we stuck closer to home base, and visited the Baltimore Museum of Art.  I can’t think why we’d never been there before.  It’s not because of the kids, because our kids like that kind of thing.

Here’s some of what we saw outside:

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Inside there were several sections to explore.  We saw sculptures and other three-dimensional expressions of art:

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The collection of the kind of paintings most people probably think of when they hear the words “art museum” was indeed impressive:

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But they also have interesting collections of art from Africa and Asia:

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They also had a great modern collection that we had to rush through because we were supposed to be somewhere.

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But that’s okay, because now I have a reason to go back there!

And don’t worry, we didn’t leave Baltimore without taking part in the essential summertime ritual:

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Last night I told my daughter I felt like I had lived at least a month in the past week or so.  Have you ever felt that way?

Because of all that I and my family have been through in the last twelve days, I find myself starting at my computer screen this morning praying for inspiration for the blog post I should have had ready to go last night at the very latest–last night when I was completing a 550 mile drive back from an unexpected funeral.

Wait a minute . . . inspiration is coming . . .

Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

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So you chose to walk around Mead’s Quarry and took the Tharp Trace Trail starting at the harder end.  Don’t feel bad because you are going to come upon a nice place to slow down and catch your breath not far from the end of the trail.  Stanton Cemetery is now maintained by Ijams, so not only is it in good shape, the answers to many would-be mysteries, like the one below, are explained on the information sign above.

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You can’t tell by looking at my pictures, but these two stones, while side by side as you would expect for a husband and wife, are facing the opposite directions.  Mr. and Mrs. Dempsey, therefore, are not really lying next to each other.  They sleep separately in death as they did in life, because they were divorced!

The day I visited this cemetery the leaves were just perfect for pictures.

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I imagine these folks are the ones whose name the cemetery bears:

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There were many sweet and touching baby headstones in here.  This hand-lettered one tugged at my heartstrings:

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This little girl’s old-fashioned names are back in style today:

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More babies:

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From graves marked only with rocks to others with unusual decorations and creative inscriptions, there is a lot of variety here.  Notice particularly the name and the date on the stone below–apparently the Simpsons had strong feelings about the coming Civil War.

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Something about this place–perhaps the secluded location–gives it an especially peaceful feeling.  Luckily, you don’t have to walk the hard part of Tharp Trace to get to it.  Mead’s Quarry is a hopping place these days, but you can reach this oasis of calm with only a few minutes’ walk.

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You’ve probably passed this little church and cemetery hundreds of times on your way to Turkey Creek.  Maybe you’ve never even noticed them.  At the corner (sort of–the road has been closed here) of Dutchtown and Lovell Roads stands the little Concord Mennonite Church, still open although with a congregation of only about 25 souls.

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The congregation has been around since the 1870s, the building since 1887.  A group of Pennsylvania Dutch, led by one John Stoltzfus, came down from the North to start this church (hence the name of the road, y’all).

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This is a small and very well-kept little cemetery, mowed, trash-free, and with most stones readable and in good repair.  There’s not much if any burying still going on here, but at least some graves are still being visited.

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The stones and inscriptions are typical of the other cemeteries I’ve visited, including the familiar lamb stones signifying the death of a child.

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The names are not as familiar.  They are–predictably–mostly German, and apparently many of the congregants left the area over the years.  There was one distinctly non-German name that was a big surprise to me, though:

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Della Myrtle Raley was my great-grandmother.  Raley is an Irish name, and I was immediately curious about exactly who old WT was and what he was doing in a Mennonite Cemetery.  I can’t yet answer the second question, but I can tell you that his full name was William Thornburgh Raley and that he was my first cousin thrice removed.  Our common ancestor is my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Raley, who is buried in Carr Cemetery in Union County (more on the cemeteries of Union County another day).  To put it another way, WT and Della were first cousins and surely knew one another.

Isn’t it strange to imagine what this area must have been like when Tennessee John (as he came to be known) and his family arrived in this area?  I found the following online in a Knoxville application for the Historic Register:  “Loveville (Lovell) was a rural community about one mile east of Campbell’s Station and was named for Robertus Love who settled there around 1797. Loveville contained a tannery, rope walk, store, blacksmith shop and cobbler’s shop. The businesses gradually disappeared over the years, and most were torn down when Kingston Pike was widened in the early 1940s. Cavett’s Station, Campbell’s Station, Ebenezer and the communities of Erin (Bearden) and Loveville (Lovell) were all located within a valley of approximately twelve square miles, Sinking Creek Valley (also called Grassy valley) in west Knoxville” (remember Grassy Valley Baptist Church–AHA!).

Now, granted this was some years later but I’m willing to bet that Loveville then was a lot closer to the Loveville of 1797 than to the Lovell of 2014.  I tired to produce picturesque shots for this post by editing out as much modern-day ugliness as possible, but it was hard.  Just look at the contrasts:

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It occurs to me that we owe a debt of gratitude to the people who founded churches and their accompanying cemeteries in the 18th and 19th centuries.  “Progress” has destroyed Loveville, leveled its blacksmith and tannery and general store.  But the God-fearing folk of East Tennessee are a lot less likely to knock down churches and dig up graveyards.  Oh, it has happened, I know.  I have forebears who lie in cemeteries that were created so that TVA could flood their previous “final” resting places.  In fact, some of the folks in this cemetery were relocated from Karns for the construction of the high school.  But it’s not as common.  And so we still have a little left of this

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albeit surrounded by this

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and for that we should all be thankful.

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When you start paying attention, cemeteries start popping up EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, just take one day to pay attention to how many of them you drive by.  You know how it is, when you see something every day you sort of stop seeing it at all.  So last Saturday I decided to visit two cemeteries that I pass on a regular basis.

First stop was Grassy Valley Baptist Church Cemetery, which is located at the church of the same name at the corner of Lovell Road and Kingston Pike.

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This isn’t your secluded, peaceful location, as you see above, though I suppose it was way out in the country when it was founded in the late 1880s.  Here’s the original sign:

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You know what they say about East Tennessee–there’s a church on every corner.  And most of them look more or less like this one:

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This is a nicely kept cemetery, especially given its proximity to a major road and businesses.  It’s trash-free, the grass was mowed, and the broken stones were minimal, although there’s always room for improvement:

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This cemetery is full of Kirbys and Llewellyns.  Wow, there were a lot of them.  Which made sense when I looked it up afterwards and found that the Kirbys donated the land for the cemetery and the Llewellyns donated the land for the church.

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Woody, Gray, and Grady were other common names.  The church was founded in 1880, and I think 1890 was the earliest burial I saw, with the latest being in 2003.  That one was the spouse of someone who had died a long time ago, though.

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I saw no evidence that this is an active cemetery.  Most of the burials took place from the 1890s through the 1940s.  But people are still visiting the graves:

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Every graveyard I’ve visited has baby graves.  Every graveyard is the final resting place for people who lived long and happy lives and people who met with tragic and early ends.  I wonder about the stories behind some of the stones I saw in this one, and feel so bad for parents who lost their children:

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Also notable here are ornate stones with long and unusual inscriptions.  I wish I had been able to decipher them all.

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Grassy Valley Baptist Cemetery is a pleasant and beautiful oasis in the commercialized ugliness of Kingston Pike, a reminder of what this area must have been like in earlier (and not that much earlier) times.

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