This past Sunday All Saints Day was celebrated in the church that I was visiting. This was done by placing a white rose on the altar while mentioning the names of all the church members who had died this past year. It was particularly meaningful to me as they mentioned the name of a precious friend of mine who had only passed two days previously. The holiday was instituted centuries ago to honor the Saints who have gone before us, the evening before was known as a “hallowed” eve. I am not sure how that all plays into how we celebrate Halloween today, which can be anything from a simple fun costumed night of sharing goodies, to an all out conjuring up spirits and other unmentionable rituals, having nothing to do with any saint or church. I was still contemplating all this while on my usual Monday morning walk along battlefield roads near the Peace Memorial.
What was different about this walk was that I was doing it alone, having gone through three of my faithful walking partners, it was up to me, myself and I this day. A good time for contemplation, prayer and thinking of things that I needed to get done.
Along the familiar path, I suddenly noticed two pennies on the ground before me. Without thinking much about it I stooped down, picked them up, put them in my pocket and continued my walk.
It was just after that when things started taking a more unusual turn. Many times I have walked past this cemetery with my walking partners. Only once can I remember us even mentioning it being there, let alone going in to take a look around. But this day, the day after All Saints day, I am drawn to this old cemetery that looks like someone cares for it and I was intrigued that each grave stone was graced with a pretty little bouquet of artificial flowers. As I came closer I noticed that each stone had at least one penny on the top of it. A few had several pennies and a lot had two on the headstone.
Fingering the two pennies I had just moments before placed in my pocket, I had the strange feeling that they should be left here on a tombstone. I didn’t just drop them willy-nilly on any stone, I walk around and looked and choose two, not for any great reason, other than I was drawn to the name and in the second case the lack of a name and they each only had one penny previously placed. Alice Lover, what a name, and only 35 years old. I can only wonder about her story. The other, not too far away, was “unknown man,” 60 years old. I can’t help but wonder if he was so unknown, how did they know his age. My pennies are the shiny ones.
One more shot of the leaning and weather-beaten stones, bearing untold tales. And one more strange thing, I just bought a book called Tales Behind the Tombstones by Chris Enss. It is a collection of stories of the people who were part of old west and the events leading to their deaths and burials. As I was leaving I was still wondering about the stories here and the history of this old cemetery when I saw a car pull up. The occupants couldn’t get up the hill fast enough.
These three guys were seriously studying this area. They had books and the enthusiasm of those who had just discovered something long searched for. I would bet they could tell me some stories, but, I didn’t ask.
I just kept to my familiar trail and wondered if this was my weird way of celebrating Halloween, since the only thing I did was buy candy for trick or treaters who never showed up and now I have been eating a fun- sized bar every day since. I had better just keep walking.