Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (as for the rest of me...)

Lone Indian on Hill


A few weeks ago, I was up later than my usual bedtime & watching David Letterman, and was ready to hit the off button  when he said something that made me sit up and take notice.  He remarked that New York City was facing a crisis of sorts--it seems the city’s cemeteries are approaching full capacity.  There will soon be no space left in NYC to bury their dead.  I wonder what they’re going to do.

While I’m sure they’ll figure out something, I found this a bit ironic for a couple reasons.  As a kid in the early ‘70s I sometimes wondered (okay--worried, actually) where everyone was going to go after they died.  (I’m not talking souls here either; there’s only so much Earth, y’know!)   I know that sounds a bit odd, but I had my reasons.  First, my Dad’s old Navy buddy, Willy Sutton, often visited Saturday mornings & always had interesting stories to share.  He told me once that real estate in Japan was at such a premium, only the wealthiest could afford to bury their loved ones—and even then, they had to go in vertically.  Who wants to stand on their feet for eternity? 

Secondly, you have to remember the times.  The “Population Explosion” was a fixture on the evening news, and even Hollywood was responding with movies like ‘Soylent Green’ & ‘Logans Run’.  (In the future we were either vaporizing people on their thirtieth birthdays or turning them into crackers and eating them.)  So I couldn’t help but wonder what would become of us.  Well, most of us.  I’ve always known where I was going, because strangely enough, my family has their own cemetery.


My Dad & Grandma Morris; behind them are headstones from the 18th century, all Morris descendants or married into the Morris family


The Morris Family cemetery sits high atop a hill overlooking my Aunt Dena & Uncle Bill’s farm (which originally belonged to my grandparents, and my grandpap’s grandparents).   As kids, my siblings & cousins often climbed the steep hill from our Grandmas’ place below, while Mom reminded us not to “mess anything up up there”.   I always saw the fenced in area as a curiosity at best, and sometimes would wander among the earlier headstones, trying to find which one was the oldest.  (The markers went back two hundred years or so, too.)

I don’t think I saw it for what it really was until I was 19 years old & my Grandpap Morris was buried there.  I can remember sitting on my Grandma’s porch during the wake, and looking up towards that hill, and realizing it was no longer some page from our family’s history book, but who we were right now.  It took on a new meaning for me that day. 

My sister Shawn at the entrance to the cemetery; check out that view

It would be fifteen years before I saw another loved one laid to rest there, when Grandma Morris left us in 1997.

And then sadly, all too quickly--an uncle, a second cousin, my own parents.  For a long while I dreaded that hill, but it feels like home there now; it’s more than loved ones laid at rest, my family’s origins are from there too.   I’ve always felt more at peace on that hill than anywhere else I’ve ever been, and I know that someday I will be with my loved ones again, hopefully in more ways than one.

My mom’s place of rest, shortly after the delivery of her headstone.  Rest in peace, Mom.

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