People often look to the past with nostalgia when they look at their personal photos.
They also look at the past with a scholarly eye when they study history.
But there is nothing like bringing back the past, even one you aren't connected to, by walking through a cemetery. If you do it with the right mind set, it becomes a very personal experience.
The last few weeks I have been spending a lot of time in cemeteries around this area. It's not that I have known a lot of people who have passed away and have been attending funerals recently. Instead I have been doing research for the upcoming "In honor of those who gave their all" special section that we are going to publish in the Sun Advocate on Nov, 9.
Due to the number of servicemen killed in war time that we have so little information about, I have been studying the gravestones in the county, trying to learn more about these people who gave their most precious possession to keep us free.
In the past I have spent some time in cemeteries, but aside from visiting relatives graves, generally it was a curiosity for me to read headstones. But I have gained a new appreciation for people from the past by strolling around and taking photos of veterans grave sites, and in the meantime seeing every other headstone in most of the local cemeteries as well.
It's easy for us to forget that the past just isn't a bunch of stories we read in a book or films we see on television. Those characters described in the written word or appearing on the screen in documentaries were real people; they lived and breathed, they had kids, they had careers, they had beliefs, they had lives.
In the rush to live our lives we sometimes forget that our existence, and much of what we have and enjoy, from our freedom to our technology, is built on those people's actions from the past. At times it appears that humankind has made great advancements all in one swoop, but that has seldom, if ever happened. What we see in our world today is largely a result of preceding generations work and sacrifice.
Maybe I am more touched by all this now that I am reaching toward senior citizenship than I would have been had I done this 30 years ago when I was in my 20's. But it seems to me that today, people forget that they have a legacy. For many it seems that all that counts is how many toys they can accumulate, how big a house they can have and what car they can drive. Yet in a hundred years will anyone else care about what model of BMW a certain person drove in 2006?
While I am not from this place, reading headstones of mine accident victims from the 1920's, babies who died in the 1930's, war casualties from the 1940's, car accident victims from the 1970's, veterans of great conflicts who are now dying of old age in the last few years and all the others before, since and in between, has brought closer to a community which I have adopted as my own, and now call home.
While it is true that we can do nothing to change the past, and we can't predict what may happen in the future, we can make an effort in the present to understand the legacy of the people who came before us and how it relates to our present. What everyone of the people who lay at peace in our local cemeteries did in their lives has consequence on us today. That effect may be everything from laying the brick wall in the building in which we work to voting for an elected official who had an effect on the laws of our land. They may have saved someones life who affected us directly or taught someone in school who later touched our lives.
But it doesn't matter what they did. Their lives affect us today, and their legacy is much greater than what car they drove or what house they lived in. Their lives are intertwined with ours in so many ways.
Don't you think we should all should get to know them a little better?