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Respect the cemeteries

By Staff | Jun 15, 2018

People’s attitudes and behavior in regards to cemeteries vary, from respect and reverence, to fear and disrespect that is displayed by inappropriate behavior in a cemetery.

Since about 2000, I have tended the Old English Cemetery on Church Street, because its condition bothered me after I first visited it to see my father’s family graves. The first 20 years of my life, my father managed a cemetery that my brothers and I helped tend.

The time I spend, sometimes seven days a week, has allowed me to meet all kinds of people and to hear their views on cemeteries.

Some visitors hunt ancestors’ graves. Descendants have thanked me for tending the cemetery. Others are tourists. A few months ago, a woman said she thought it was wonderful the cemetery had been preserved. Some stones and tombs are more than 200 years old. People walking by shout, “Thank you for doing what you are doing.” Recently, a member of another church said I did a terrific job with the cemetery. Another member with him said he had to work to keep theirs as good looking.

This past week, I had one good experience, and one not. The first was a man walking around, looking at the gravestones and taking pictures. He said he always liked history and found cemeteries interesting. Saturday, while I was trimming bushes, a man and a boy under age 12 started chasing each other around tombstones, trees, walls and tombs while aiming what looked like assault guns at each other. I walked toward them and said, “This is not a playground. It is the burial place of someone’s loved ones, including soldiers, some Revolutionary who fought to establish this country. Would you do this at Arlington National Cemetery?” The man replied, “Okay, you’ve made your point.” They left.

I did not notice if things were being shot from the guns. They had not jumped up on the tombs or walls, or beaten stones with branches and other objects, as I have seen children and others do. Some stones are damaged. Stones have fallen or been knocked by a vehicle from the wall. As my parents used to say, some things cannot be replaced or fixed.

Once, a woman stood watching her child break off blooms and drop them on the ground. When I told the child that if he broke off the flowers, there would be none for anyone to enjoy, she left with no comment.

Then there are those who come with their dogs to defecate and do not pick it up when bags and a container are provided.

Some cemeteries have “No Dogs” signs, or signs with rules posted or a request for respect. It is disturbing when an adult is present when this behavior occurs. Perhaps the adult was not taught respect or refuses to do so. Then why do we wonder why a person shoots up a school or mall or movie theater or drives a vehicle into a group?

Virginia E. Magruder