Thursday, July 11, 2013

abandoned tombstones

"The bottles are dry and his broken heart rests. 1997-2011"

What's the story here? A 14-yr-old boy, maybe with a fatal cardiac problem--literally a broken heart. Or is the broken heart a metaphor. Except why would his heart be broken? Because he was dying? If it's a metaphor, the phrasing is odd. And what do the bottles mean? Perhaps the boy had a congenital illness that never let him progress past infancy in terms of feeding himself?

If you have any insight, I'd be interested. Or if you want to write a story, feel free. I'm not going to.

Next question is: WHY would someone remove the tombstone from a child's grave?

R works in a cemetery and every day tells me another zany/puzzling/sad cemetery story. I group them under headings: Family Feuds, Strange Funereal Rites, Bizarre Farewells, Inappropriate Affect, Cemetery Accidents.

A sub-heading under Family Feuds is Abandonment. There are family members so opposed to a particular family member being buried in the family plot that, although they can't prevent the burial, they remove the tombstone. I'm not making this up. It's true. R has been out for a stroll in the cemetery and found a tombstone shoved under a bush or propped against a tree. Ditto for urns which are sometimes unearthed or simply never buried. (This latter case belongs under the sub-heading: Deceased Wanted Urn  In This Cemetery But Family Hasn't Paid To Bury It. Interestingly, this last provision regarding cremation and the cemetery can be written into a will, but there's no followup as to whether the family actually had the urn buried or simply left it in an unspecified spot in the cemetery. I suppose one should be relieved they didn't just dump the body.)

This child's gravestone was brought into the office by a concerned passerby who was visiting the cemetery. It's black granite--approximate value of $500. Strange that there's no name, which makes it hard to return to the grave where it belongs. And even if it were returned, would it be removed again?

R decided to bring it home. It's propped against the back fence where we can see it when we're sitting outside or roll our bikes out the gate.


  1. I once wrote a short story using inscriptions from gravestones. Wish I had known about this one. Odd, poetic, puzzling. I like it.

  2. I love cemeteries. I find them strangely soothing and fascinating. Interesting about the tombstone R found. Glad you all gave it a home. When I saw the photo, the story that popped into my head was of a jilted boyfriend who turned to alcohol to soothe his broken heart. So often I wonder about the people in cemeteries... their history, personality, whether they had a (hopefully) happy life, etc. So many untold stories....

  3. Yeah, Alice, I thought about that too... that the bottles were booze. But he was only 14. I hate to think that story.