Memories of cemeteries

Published 9:16 am Sunday, July 1, 2018

My family loves to visit the cemetery.

I never thought this was strange, until I shared some of my thoughts with city friends.

Their looks of bewilderment were another indicator of cultural differences between them and I.

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From an early age, I remember going with Mom and Granny to Bradshaw Cemetery.

Bradshaw Cemetery is located on a quiet, beautiful hill, down a dirt road between Aarons Creek and Elkins Creek roads.

In the spring, we would hunt wild flowers in the surrounding woods and, in the fall, gather bug collections for our science classes. In the winter, when the leaves were all gone from the trees, I could see my best friend’s house in the distance — more comforting moments.

As we walked from grave to grave, reading the tombstones, Granny would tell stories of each person remembered there.

Some of the stories were hilarious and we would belly laugh. Some were disturbing. Some were heartbreaking.

Every visit we would hear the same stories and every story would matter. We came across graves of good people who had lived hard lives and had touched Granny and Mom’s lives in ways they would never forget — people who had passed away decades before my birth became a part of my life.

Sometimes we would get silly. Once, while pondering the row of burial plots Mom had purchased for the family, the question was raised: Will there be enough space for all of us?

We are a large family and, with each passing year, new ones are added. True to her nature, my sister Linda came up with the only reasonable solution — she had each of the grandchildren lie down side by side across the row.

We determined, if we all scrunch in close to each other, there will be plenty of space and no one will have to rest alone. In this family, the circle will not be broken.

Visiting the cemetery is not distressing, and now my mom (their Granny) is the one who tells the stories to my daughters. It is a place where history is retold and where we stoke the fires of love for friends and family.

It is a place where we are reminded that life is fragile and not guaranteed. The importance of living life with purpose and meaning are highlighted during these visits.

A tear might be shed and, most definitely, laughter will be heard as we remember the loved ones. I’ve heard said that one indication you are from Appalachia is if you know, even at a young age, where you will be buried.

Once you’ve visited a place like Bradshaw Cemetery, the decision is set. I know my spirit will be gone, but my body will lie with those I have loved.


Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at