On Making Sweet Love In Charming Old New England Cemeteries

Some of the most beautiful, tranquil, and contemplative places I have ever known, are located inside the cultivated spaces, which are designated throughout our region, and known as, cemeteries. In New England, we have so many of them throughout the countryside, the cityscape, and along the seaside, that they are very nearly overlooked by even the most observant traveler. Typified by orderly gravestones, many of them include small bridges over gurgling streams, lovely gardens along meandering walkways, and enormous tree limbs that stretch out across acres of rolling hillsides.

Whether the stone be simple and unremarkable, or enormous and sculpted; the commemoration of the deceased is celebrated through installments of time that call for some recognition. The Puritans, certainly, cultivated the death-head, turned winged-skull, turned plump-cherub, as the personification up for consideration, regarding a life beyond the grave; from the decay of the body, to the departure of the soul, to the eventual signifier of the afterlife that illustrated the evolution of Christian faith in early America.

And, then, the Victorians, who seemingly saved us all, in their capacity for understanding that art was science, was religion, was mathematics, was philosophy, was sexuality, was history, was spirituality, was geography… decided to celebrate the life of the deceased with all the beauty and truth that granite would allow. Their commemoration of the dead was unremarkable in any way, other than that of devoted, celebrated, and attentive remembrance of loved ones.

Understanding that all things are intimately connected with all things, the affluent wealthy Victorians planned their departures from the earth with much thought given to the extraordinary, and the extravagant, and a healthy absence of conservative embellishment. In word and image, the stone that marks the lives of the affluent Victorians in New England cemeteries almost always pays tribute to the nature of love that guided their lives from birth to old age. As such, Victorians with means gave themselves over to the great drama that was life until death. In generations that followed, the stones became larger, simpler, and plainer, but no less opulent in their ability to withstand time.

And so it was, late in the day on a cool summer afternoon, that my lover, who became my fiancé, who became my husband, and I, found ourselves walking along the paths of a cemetery, past the grand lady who leaned forward from upon her monument in a billowing dress, as she clasped a bouquet of flowers, and looked down toward the earth where the deceased lay in rest, past the tiny stone chapel that stood watch over the landscape where so many trees shaded the family plots marked by small iron fencing, and into the small cove of grass, and trees, and wildflowers that marked a departure from the path.

There, we spread a blanket, embraced our passion, and made sweet love among the memories of lives come and gone, celebrated and forgotten, and now resting in the sweet peace of the earth, beneath summer breezes and sunset skies ablaze in the twilight of the season. We listened to the sounds of the water that trickled by in the river, the birds calling out to one another, and the crickets that began their evening song. We marveled to feel so alive in a place that signified so much death, and lay still in one another’s arms, thinking of the wonder of our lives, so well spent, as we pondered such a place.

Our deep and profound love, soulmates in everything that pertained to spirit, soul, and body, was older, wiser, and even tempered, knowing that all things grow, and change, and one day come to an end. We reveled in the knowledge that we too, would continue to grow old, and gray, and tired. We vowed to follow all our adventures together toward that destiny so evident all around us, recalling the words written in some of the stones, thinking on those that spoke to a lifetime of endearment in so few words.

Ours was an unexpected song, at an unexpected time, and one which neither one of us had ever hoped to hear in our lifetime; a certain melody which reminded us, through every unexpected verse, that we were shrouded in an abiding joy that was the discovery of our first hearing. We shuddered at the beauty which surrounded us, clung to each other, then began again, the dance from which all life springs forward, and into an unsuspecting world of so much to see, to taste, to hear, to touch, and to cherish for a lifetime of treasured remembrances. Later, on another day, and at another time, my love, a Music Historian, presented to me, a CD of precious songs, from his own collection, and among them was one, that haunts me well, very well.

I Will Follow You Into the Dark

Love of mine, someday you will die
But I’ll be close behind and I’ll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
And illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me,
Son, fear is the heart of love, so I never went back

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
And illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark

You and me we’ve seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary and the soles of your shoes
Are all worn down
The time for sleep is now
But it’s nothing to cry about
‘Cause we’ll hold each other soon in the blackest of rooms

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
And illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark

Benjamin Gibbard, I Will Follow You Into the Dark, from the Album, Plans, by Death Cab for Cutie.

On Making Sweet Love In Charming Old New England Cemeteries, by Robin Whitham McCrady, Copyright, 2020

“Wise Women, such as Midwives, Astronomers, Mathematicians, Healers, Philosophers, Herbalists, and Storytellers were once persecuted, as Witches,” from, Wise Welsh Witch. 

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