31 May 2011

From here, I can see for miles

My favorite place on the planet is Miles Tomb and Cemetery.

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I know it seems rather macabre, but it's one of the most serene and peaceful places I've ever been. On one hand it's cared for by people who love it; and on the other, it's graffitied and vandalized by people who couldn't care less.

May 2005:
Miles Tomb

October 2008:
Day 129: Visiting Miles Tomb

February 2009:
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It was established as a beautiful place of burial, to be abandoned and forgotten, to be ransacked, overgrown and in complete disarray, to its current state - lovingly cared for by volunteers from surrounding communities. The following is what I wrote about Miles Tomb on 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.

You can read more here.

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Listening to - Nothing. Observing a moment of silence for Denise.

Please know I'm not looking for sympathy; her family deserves that, not I. We met in March and I've only seen her and once or twice since then. Sure, we've talked on the phone and texted a few times, but that hardly makes us good friends. However, that doesn't mean my life was not touched by hers.

She was a really nice woman, a lot of fun, positive and uplifting, and she loved her young son more than life itself. Her life was cut tragically short and she will be missed by many. Rest in peace.
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4 comments:

  1. Pisses me off beyond expression seeing vandalized headstones. A society is judged by the way they respect their dead. Or not.

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  2. I've seen that place hundreds of times, but never been up to it. That's super cool.

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  3. Visited Eagle Cliff / Miles Cemetery today for the first time. The caretakers have done a great job - it's very pretty with the trees and grass trimmed and the view is spectacular! Unfortunately, the Mausoleum is covered in graffiti - inside and out - again. And, it was sad to see the headstones of the children. There was one who only lived 1 mo and a few days....

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  4. Pisses me off too...these are my ancestors!

    ReplyDelete

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