Remembering the dead

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I once head an interesting story about how one local church pastor, on the occasion of All Souls Day Nov. 2, invited parishioners to gather in the church cemetery for a blessing of graves.

Each person was asked to stand by a grave and a few minutes later, with people standing by the graves of relatives, friends and perhaps complete strangers, parishioners remembered the dead.

Some churches celebrate religious holidays honoring those who have died and while most Americans don’t build private altars to the dead or eat meals in cemeteries as they do in Mexico and elsewhere on the Day of the Dead (also held in many places Nov. 2), many of us regularly take time out of our day to honor those who have gone before us.

I try to visit the graves of my family members often, grandparents in Tell City, a grandfather and uncle in Leopold and even great-grandparents I didn’t know or can only vaguely remember. Doing so not only reminds me of my ancestors but reinstills in me a personal hope that their departed souls know I remember them.

I admire local churches who maintain their own cemeteries and small communities like Tell City that go to the work – and expense – of operating municipal cemeteries. Mega cemeteries in Evansville and Louisville seem overly large and impersonal and visitors sometimes need a map to find a grave.

We don’t have that problem in Perry County.

In many parts of Europe, graves get more attention than they do in this country. In Germany and Switzerland, loved ones plant flowers and meticulously landscape them. Most graves in the U.S. look alike.

I also appreciate the care cemetery workers, township trustees and cemetery associations devote to graves. Branchville Correctional Facility offenders help tend to several cemeteries and some of those men appreciate the chance to offer a service to families who visit graves.

Over the past decade or so, many families are etching images of loved ones, favorite pets and even homesteads on granite tombstones. I like that tradition.

A friend who studied in Austria was initially put back by the tradition of some families in that country, mainly older people, who bake special foods in memory of the dead and symbolically set an extra place-setting, not every day but on All Souls Day and perhaps a wedding or anniversary, in honor of that person.

There’s no doubt one reason recipes are so beloved and passed down from one generation to the next is because those dishes remind us of loved ones no longer with us.

As All Soul Day nears, take the time to remember your departed loved ones. Visit their graves and spend a few minutes. Bring your kids and grandchildren and share a story or two of that person.

Too much of a preoccupation with dead relatives, of course, is unhealthy and can perhaps become superstitious. But to me, part of living is remembering those we love who have died.

We all know the time will come when we’ll be the ones being remembered.

Repaying a 40-Year-Old Debt

An interesting story was shared with me last week. I was told that the family of the late Ralph Werner had received a note from someone who had borrowed a piece of equipment from Werner Motor Co. decades ago. With the note came $60.

The note read, “ Enclosed is $60 to cover the price of a chain and bottle jack I borrowed from Mr. Werner 40 years ago and failed to get back.”

Some people easily forget the obligations they have. Others remember them many years later. Perhaps Mr. Werner’s obituary brought back memories of the equipment borrowed but never returned. The money was donated to United Way of Perry County and will help others.