Colonies of Heaven

Colony of Heaven

This is not a bivouac of the dead. It is a colony of heaven. And some part of us all is buried here.

   Chaplain Paul Redmond, Dominican Priest, at the Dedication of the Sixth Marine Division cemetery on Okinawa

My co-blogger Darwin Catholic has a fascinating post on cemeteries at his blog:

I like cemeteries and I hadn’t had a chance to wander this one much, even though we’ve lived here for four years now. It’s been the parish cemetery 125 years, but the was an older cemetery on part of the land which the parish cemetery has since swallowed up. That old section has headstones engraved in cursive script dated from the 1830s through the 1850s.

One of the things I like about our town is that it hasn’t outgrown its history. The downtown isn’t much bigger than it was in 1910, though the outlying areas have grown a good bit. This cemetery is much different from the more modern ones I grew up with in California, with the land all flat and the headstones flush with the ground so that big riding mowers could move through the whole area easily. Here the grounds rolls in little depressions and rises and nearly all the stones are upright. This has the feel of a place which has quietly seen a lot of people come and go, not an open space that has been tamed for the purpose of conducting burials efficiently.

Walking the cemetery is also a good time to focus your perspective a bit. MrsDarwin found a woman who was born almost exactly a century before she was.

“I like to find people born a century before me and see what year they died,” she told me.

“How’d it go?”


“Well, thirty-four more years. That’s not a bad run…”

I suppose sixty-nine counts as an early death these days, but nonetheless I’d feel a certain relief if I knew that I’d have at least thirty-four more years to be with my loved ones and to get things done.

Other sources of perspective are more sobering. We say a headstone from 1910 for a baby who died at 10 months and 19 days. Our youngest, who I was carrying with me, is 10 months and 3 days old. Momento mori. I wrapped him tighter in his blanket against the evening breeze.

Go here to read the rest.  Until my son Larry died I never had much to do with cemeteries.  Now, I visit his grave at Mount Olivet cemetery in Dwight at least once a week.  At first my visits were so beset by grief that I did not notice much beyond Larry’s grave.  However, as the months have passed, I have developed a deep love for the peace of the cemetery as it passes through the changes of the seasons.  I have become familiar with the tombstones near my son’s and I often wonder about the events of their lives and the fates that led their bodies to await Judgment Day with the body of my son.  My bride and I have spaces adjacent to the grave of my son, and when our times come our flesh will join the little band that patiently awaits at Mount Olivet the Day of the Lord.  Today was a glorious Fall day at the cemetery, with orange leaves swirling gaily in the clear late Fall sunlight, like souls basking in the grace and joy of the Beatific Vision.  Yes, much to my surprise, a cemetery can be a source of joy, as I speak to my departed, yet ever near, son and see the peace and glory of mortality awaiting immortality.  Our parish priest is blessing the cemetery next Sunday, and my bride and I will be there, for the cemetery has become a blessing to us.

More to explorer


  1. Near us we have a small cemetery called Red Bank, not much more than 100 plots … yet I enjoy the visit and fact that we can find 4 known revolutionary war soldiers buried there. Quite a ratio given that small area. They of course did not die in the war.

  2. Just east of the LIRR, Jamaica RR station on the south side of the tracks is an old, abandoned (the proximite Church – not Cathiolic – has been reinvented to some other use) cemetery. There are full sized trees among the head stones.

    Each evening as I ride past I say, “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.” Lest we forget.

    I need to start to go with my sister to visit our parents’ grave in the national cemetery. She always has a nice thing to say about the visits. Daily, I visit with them in my prayers.

  3. My brother recently wandered into the tiny, overgrown, untended graveyard across the road from our place in upstate NY, and discovered headstones with birthdates in the 1700s; at least one gent laid to rest there was already pretty old at the time of the Revolutionary War. Pray for the souls of the forgotten dead and your friends in Heaven will multiply, social networking between life and afterlife, I love being a Catholic!!

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