I used to bring high school juniors to the local graveyard on the first day of school. As their American History teacher, I wanted to put them nose-to-nose with the “big picture” — History is real people, living in real places, striving to make the most of their short span of time. Gravestones tell stories, and regardless of what they say and what symbol adorns them, they remind us that we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those we love along the way.
The graveyard in Hartland, Wisconsin did not have next to it a marker noting that George Washington rode by this spot on his way to take command of the troops. But it did have Civil War soldiers, children’s graves marked with lambs, lots of pioneering German immigrants, and other reminders to carpe diem.
I’ve passed the Common Street graveyard thousands of times, and each time I am struck by how it sits next to Watertown High School. I wonder how many students have gazed out the window and noticed it there.
The church I serve is one block from the graveyard+high school. We’re striving to take both into view — to honor the past while serving the present. I’m glad we can see both graves and teenagers from our perch. They are both spiritual guides of sorts.
When did you last visit a graveyard? Do you avoid them or seek them out?