Posted by: geolocke | 2014/08/22

Tending the Family Plot

Note: I found this in my drafts folder, completed but not published. The original date is January 3, 2014. I do not remember why I did not publish it at that time. Perhaps I had intended to go back and make a few edits, but I do not recall any such thoughts now. It seems odd to post this now in the heat of August. Perhaps there is a Higher reason for me to have waited until now to publish this. -geo

This morning my wife & I went to tend the graves of her parents. We seem to have picked the coldest day of the Year to do our duty. There was a cold biting wind blowing through the graveyard, causing anything that was loose to turn into tumbling, flying debris. By the time we had cleared the grass from around the head and foot stones, brushed the dirt out of the etchings, and set out fresh flowers our fingers were frozen stiff. We then said a short prayer before retreating to the warmth of the waiting car.

I like this ‘duty’ of mine, tending the graves of family and loved ones. It is typically a time of peaceful reflection for me. A time to contemplate the lessons of the lives of those whose grave I am working on, and to ponder what those lessons mean to me.  This particular duty is one that I take on freely and gladly as my way of honoring my wife’s parents; her dad, the reverend, who died before we met, and her mom, who my wife cared for through many years of crippling arthritis.

It occurred to me this morning that of all the creatures on this planet, we humans are a funny lot when it comes to burying our dead and tending their graves.  It is almost as if we were set apart and special above all other creatures on this planet, as if some higher power had set it within our hearts to not only care for each other while alive, but to also care for those who have died.

For those of us who call that higher power God, we know and understand that this is a sacred duty. Yet even the non believers bury their dead, and I would imagine that some of them must visit the graves of their ancestors at some time. So what does this mean? How is it that there is something planted deep within the human psyche that prompts us … regardless of any religious affiliation we may or may not have … to not only care for the living members of our species, but to also care for the dead among us? And even more, to care not just for our family and friends, but to also care for complete strangers.

I feel it is this distinction more than any other, the caring for the dead, that makes us a species separate and apart from all the other species on this planet. It is a trait that is on par with our superior intelligence, our reasoning, and our tool making skills. Others may (will) disagree with me, but I think that it is no accident of nature that we, of all the species on this planet, have this particular trait. I feel it is truly a gift given to us by our Creator, and it is a gift that I treasure.



  1. George, what a beautiful reflection. I will keep this and share it with others. It would make a good reflection for a funeral…especially for a family who will bury a loved one, My dad visited cemeteries regularly to honor his parents, and, when I live near to my parents graves, I visit them.
    Thanks and God bless you!
    Sister Renee


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