When was the last time you visited a cemetery?
I went to the cemetery yesterday. It was quiet even though the cemetery I went to is right on the edge of the city. It was a nice bright day after a week of ice, snow and cold. It always snows before Halloween. Yesterday the snow started to melt and this will continue on into November and then it will snow again and be WINTER!
I went to the Pioneer Cemetery. It is the oldest cemetery in the city. It is a cemetery because it was planned out from the beginning.
Graveyards are attached to churches, or homesteads. Graveyards are free-form, willy nilly, almost as if the corpse has been left where it had fallen. As if, there was no time to anticipate the end.
Cemeteries are ordered, plots planned, in rows, flat, easy to maintain & mow. A way, I suppose, for us to control the uncontrollable.
The headstones are over a hundred years old; some are too worn to read all but the most basic information. Along with the quiet, I go to cemeteries to explore the history. I like to think about whom these people were and compare their life experiences to mine.
This is one of the first tombstones in the cemetery. Isn’t it elegant. I find it amazing that the text is still readable after 100 and some years. I wonder who bought and paid for it? I wonder what it cost.
This tombstone belongs to Edward William Meeres who died at age 27 in 1888 after being trapped in a blizzard, making his way home from a neighbour’s house on the spacious prairie. He wanted to check his livestock and lost his way. The location today is approximately the corner of Broadway Avenue and 10th Street.
He lost his way only a few blocks from where I live which is now the center of the city. I am a prairie girl, I know how quickly a snow storm can turn into a blizzard and how easy it is to get lost, even now, as the snow blocks your sense of where you are even when you have a sidewalk under your feet and buildings a foot or two away.
I don’t know if he had family. He had cattle he worried about. He was young. He left a party and never made it home. Unfortunately, that is still the reality here in many small rural towns where boredom and alcohol run rampant.
This tombstone says Marr, so therefore those buried here must be related to these Marrs, one supposes. The Marr Residence is one of the oldest in the city and again is in my immediate neighbourhood. Every where I go, I am surrounded by history, by soft, whispering voices, by ghosts.
The Marr Residence was used as a hospital during the Riel Rebellion. Perhaps this member of the North West Mounted Police survived the Rebellion only to be gone early in the next century at a relatively young age. Young, such a ambiguous term. In the context of his historical time, he was probably considered old, well now at the same age, I like to think of myself as middle aged, decades away from his fate.
The Pioneer Cemetery was in use for 64 years. There are 162 souls buried here and 51 of them were children and half of all the graves are populated by those who died before they were 16. This fact brings home to me how much more dangerous life was then, how fragile, how unforgiving of weather and sickness and time.
Minnie never survived her first winter. Did it help heal her young parents’ hearts to decorate her grave with a lamb? Was she starting to crawl? Did they miss her laugh? What could have Minnie become? She was too soon gone.
Ethel only barely survived her first year. She’s been in the cemetery longer than she was ever in her mother’s arms. There is probably no one around who remembers her or her family. This is why I go to the cemetery; to remember those who time has forgotten.