Every person, no matter what their station or fortune in life, will eventually come to this place--a cemetery. In the end, we all possess the same thing, a small plot marked by a few letters and numbers on a weathering stone. This is where we all came from and to where we all shall return.
The people in these cemeteries are our past--and our future. They walked these hills before us as our descendants will walk after us. A part of each of them lives on in each of us as we will live on in generations to come.
It is our sacred duty to the departed, and to the generations yet to come, to preserve these final resting places, these few letters and numbers on stone. If we allow their history and their lives to fade away as their stones weather and fade so shall future generations allow us to fade away.
These people left us a legacy, they walked the path before us and smoothed the way. We cannot allow their contributions to our lives to be forgotten or taken for granted.
If, by any chance, one should doubt the courage and strength of our ancestors, one need only look at the appalling number of infant graves in our cemeteries. They buried child after child and still strode forward, rearing the next generation the best they knew how. It was their duty and they did not shirk it.
These people fought not only the elements, disease, and grief. They fought, and died, in all of this nation’s wars, police actions, and conflicts. When their country called, they set aside their own concerns, donned the uniform and marched off to do their duty as citizens. Many, many of them returned to be buried in these cemeteries beneath a stone bearing their name and rank. Will we allow the graves of those who died that we might live free to be forgotten and neglected?
They walked these hills bearing burdens which we cannot even imagine. The poorest of us today have an easier path than most of our ancestors did. Yet they persevered and pressed onward, burying their dead with love in these cemeteries and marking those graves as best they could. They kept their cemeteries clean and decorated. They had no perpetual care, only perpetual respect.
We've all heard it said of many of the ancestors “He was a hard man,” or “She was a cold woman.” I daresay that these people had every right to become cold and hard. Their lives made them that way. It was their way of surviving the unsurvivable.
We have allowed highways to become more important that the final rest of our departed, houses and shops to become of more value. Family cemeteries have been plowed over for farmland with no more care than if an animal were buried there. Greed and apathy have replaced respect. Broken markers are thrown out of cemeteries because they are a nuisance to the caretaker’s lawnmower. People are asked by cemetery associations not to put flowers on their loved ones graves because “the man who mows doesn’t like to mow around them.”
They walked these hills with Loyalty, Grace, and Honor. We shame their memory by doing less.