17 July 2008

Darn! ...at least we have the memories

I bid on a writing job for a company that deals with gravesite care, memorials, and so on. It didn’t work out, but I hate to see these few paragraphs go to waste.

Enjoy. Or don’t enjoy. But whatever.

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Today is beautiful and serene. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing and I can see for miles. I’m at Eagle Cliff / Miles Cemetery, standing at the edge of a bluff overlooking the farmlands of the Mississippi River floodplain in Illinois.

Some of my earliest memories involve a strong attraction to this cemetery, a place which I enjoy visiting to this day. As a child I remember riding in the back of my parents car, looking up to see a curious stone mausoleum jutting out from the trees at the top of the bluff. It looked mysterious, it felt special and I loved it. I wondered about the people who were buried there. Who were they? What kind of life had they lived? What happened to them?

The cemetery is filled with local families, farmers, war heroes and everyday folk alike. Constructed in 1858, the mausoleum once housed Stephen W. Miles and ten of his family members. Its 56 vaults now stand empty. As a teenager I heard outlandish rumors that the cemetery had been plagued by jewelry thieves and vandals, and that it was once a place for satanic worship. Later I learned those rumors are true. In the 1960s, a group of “hippies” removed the bodies from their individual vaults and burned them as part of a seance. Outraged by this horrific incident, locals sealed up the mausoleum and today cinderblocks fill the arched window frames where beautiful stained glass once stood.

Nowadays, visitors are permitted to go inside the mausoleum and view its emptiness disrupted only by painted effigies of “James was here” and “Tom loves Tina.” After many visits it’s become clear the mausoleum is an ever-changing canvas of graffiti for bored teenagers; soon after the stone is cleaned a new spray painted design will appear in its place. Undeterred, volunteers work hard to wash away the graffiti, maintain the cemetery’s lawn and repair toppled and weathered grave markers. Hoping to unravel the mystery, preserve history and keep the cemetery’s legacy fresh in our minds, their efforts have been met with success. Eagle Cliff / Miles Cemetery has been restored to the peaceful place it once was, offering a tranquil environment for one to reflect upon and contemplate life.

Miles Tomb

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You can read more here.

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Listening to: Man Man - Man Who Make You Sick
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2 comments:

  1. Beautiful writing!

    How sad that kids are defacing sacred ground. The cemetery where Jessica and Kelli are was vandalized recently, but their stones were left alone. Someone wrote an obscenity on a stone near them. I just can't imagine the level of idiocy it takes to think that messing with the dead is a good idea.

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  2. Thanks Kim for sharing your story. I agree with your last sentence and am thinking it deserves to go into my quote book!

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