Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Cemeteries that I love
I am a person who is fascinated by old cemeteries. I have a love for the old stones and for the poetry that is often carved there. I have visited cemeteries in Canada and Hollywood, Paris, London and Dublin--even Venice. I have been taken to visit the graves of my ancestors since I was a small child. My mother would take me to Valley Falls to Mount Calvary where her parents are buried and her brothers and sisters. And now she lies there too beside her own daughters, my sisters, who are also buried there. The stone that has their names and birth and death dates carved is full and so are the plots. When my mother took me there as a child she would clean the gravestone and she brought a plastic bucket and a brush and some soap and would get water from a nearby faucet. She would scrub the stone clean that she had purchased many years before. She said that when she was a child and her mother came to the graves there was no stone and they would pace off the grave site that sits beneath a large oak tree. But now there is a stone and the only information that is not yet there is the year of my Aunt Anna's death--you must wait a year after the death to place that date and so I will have it added soon. My father's sister, my Aunt Grace Jenckes, took me to a cemetery in Woonsocket to visit the graves of my father's family. Oak Hill is an oasis of peace and forested beauty in the middle of Woonsocket. It is hidden behind a row of three-deckers and when my aunt would turn into the drive from Rathbun Street it felt like we had found a door to a secret garden. What amazed me there was the prominence and beauty of the Jenckes Monument and to see that my father's people were buried there and had been for many generations. Grace would tell me what she knew about the Jenckes family; but most of her tales were anecdotal and were part of an oral tradition. I have since learned more about the History of the Jenckes family in Rhode Island at the Rhode Island Historical Society. But the person who has most brought it alive to me is Elizabeth Vangel who through her research uncovered so many of the illustrious histories of those who founded the sacred oak grove that is Oak Hill.