Among the Stones

A slight stretch for meeting my commitment to walk outside every day, I am posting here, on this lengthier blog, after wandering among stones of a different nature:

A warm, spring-scented breeze blew my hair across my face as I passed over a manicured lawn. I broke the peaceful silence when I began to call out names to my mom. Almost all were German. We were looking for Lauchnor, the parents of my grandmother.

Although my mom had suggested we go there, she told me that she never visits cemeteries. “There’s no one here,” she observed. Still, I was glad we came. Up and down the rows I walked, thinking about the connections in the names, so many the same. This had been a community. This was a land of immigrants with a shared culture. This was where Pennsylvania met Germany, where Brobst knew Oswald and Fenstermaker and Hunsicker.

Among barely legible markers, many written in German script, I finally found the one we were there to see. Not having known my great grandparents, they did not reside in my memory. I only had stories in my mind. In a box below my feet lay only minerals and cloth of the past. Yes, there was no one there, but still, these were powerful stones.

With their plot they had purchased perpetual care. Their stone was clearly inscribed and new, even though the dates were more than a century old and all the local descendents–the sort of people who would replace an aging headstone–were gone. There before me was the representation of two people who, because they were, I am. And that marker will be in that place for perpetuity.

Most of their direct descendents were buried in places other than this. As the world grew smaller, and Germans met Irishmen and Italians and Hungarians, they moved away. The cultural thread has been frayed.

Regardless, next to Cora and Isadore on the breezy hill, and next to their son and his wife, were the small, unnamed markers for the infants. Only the born date appeared as if each one lived less than a day, although from stories I know they did not. Tragedy and sorrow, this too will be here for as long as there is a caretaker in the church. And this too reminded me of the delicate connection that is my existence. Had they not died, who like me would be?

The seeds of our ancestry have been scattered by the winds of progress. There is no need today for such tight, little, self-dependent communities in America today. Or is there? Might history someday repeat?

We walked back to the car. I felt the energy from a history of pain in this place, but stronger still I felt the energy of praise. This was where they came, lived, married, and created a future for me.

As we drove out of town, through the field covered hills, we passed the road signs: Oswald and Fenstermaker and Hunsicker…every one suddenly became not a symbol of where we should go, but a symbol of where we have been.