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PAY ATTENTION TO THE SILENCE Kate’s Journal


Tucked away on a back street in the town of Dublin, California an old cemetery lies under the sheltering arms of ancient trees.

A cemetery holds the history of a time, a place, and a people. The artifacts and the stone architecture remain as a reminder–a record of their existence.

The valley was settled by Danish and Irish immigrants, in the middle of the 19th century, and along with the mercantile establishments which made a village, the cemetery came into being, roughly divided into Catholic and Protestant gravesites.

St Raymond's St. Raymond’s Catholic Church, Dublin, CA

I was once saddened to see that a young Irishman had fallen to his death while roofing the church, and later found that he had been an ancestor of a friend, now buried in the Catholic side.

Though the church was the earliest Catholic church in the area, it is no longer used for services, but is available for other uses in the community. The best funeral I ever went to was held there some years ago when a cousin of Dr. A’s said her goodbyes, ending with the marching of a New Orleans jazz band leading us to her final resting place in the Rasmussen plot. True to her individual style she opted for a large rough rock as her marker instead of the usual cold granite.

Each of the old plots holds a sign proclaiming the original settler’s history, thereby giving the cemetery a guide to each original family. The Rasmussen plot lies at the extreme rear of the place though there are family members scattered throughout the cemetery. A baby’s marble crib in the middle of the plot tells of the passing of a baby brother of Dr. A’s father, however family lore tells us “he” is not there but hurriedly buried somewhere in the unmarked ground since the family did not have their plot at the time of his demise. I had often attempted to plant flowers in the crib, including Bleeding Heart, but due to the heat and lack of water it never worked. There are many marble reminders of children taken too early, as in most old cemeteries.

The cemetery lies behind the church, and behind the old school where my father-in-law attended classes. For many years the property was managed by a “Cemetery Board” to which we all belonged with occasional meetings to decide grave cleaning, tree pruning etc. after which we all went out to dinner nearby. It was a social gathering of old family friends, who sometimes gathered for a picnic under the trees. Then as more people moved into the area, it was handed over to the City of Dublin to manage. and it lost its familial feel.

There have been many changes through the years since the City took control, but then, Life is change, forcing all of us tho choose, resist, or roll with it. The large home of a former settler has been moved into the neighboring property making the entire area a park where school children are often brought to learn about the early settlers who were primarily farmers in the fertile valley. While the valley was once carpeted with fruit trees and poppies, today it abounds with business parks and homes. The absent fruit trees and poppies are a reminder that we are all transient visitors.

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In another valley, this one in Grants Pass, Oregon, is the cemetery where generations of the Sweetland family, as well as those who married out of it, repose for eternity. As in Dr. A’s family cemetery it is divided into Catholic and Protestant Masonic.

It is situated on the top of a low rise overlooking the town and shielded by large oak trees planted in the 19th century after the movement to the West. These people were primarily ranchers and farmers. My grandfather was a rancher and the town butcher.

-It's_the_Climate-_sign_in_Grants_Pass,_Oregon

Early Hudson’s Bay Company hunters and trappers, following the Siskiyou Trail, passed through the site beginning in the 1820’s. In the 1840’s settlers following the Applegate Trail began traveling through the area on their way to the Willametter Valley. The city states that the name of General Ulysses S. Grant was selected to honor Grant’s victory at Vicksburg.

The town is situated idyllically beside the Rogue River which flows west to the sea. The river abounds with fish and entices fishermen and outdoorsmen as a vacation destination.

It has never been a hub of business or financial activity, but serves as a direct route north and south. A sugar beet factory was built in 1916, but due to labor shortage and low acreage planted the company was moved to Toppenish, Washington. There still remain acreage of hop fields, where I as a teenager during the War, picked hops because of the shortage of labor.

When my father, a son of Grants Pass, passed away in 1993, Dr. Advice dug his last resting place, as he had done for his mother in Dublin, CA. An honor guard saluted him with the playing of Taps to honor his military service, and as the final notes rang out over the town of his birth I was comforted by the thought that he had returned safely to the place he had longed for.

As the few people said their goodbyes and headed for their cars, a caretaker came through with his happy frolicking black lab. He looked at the stone and said “Oh–Walter’s gone is he?” I nodded and he apologized for the dog sniffing the grave, saying they passed by there every day and the dog was accustomed to walking through the plots. I told him my father, a great dog lover, would be happy to know that the dog would be coming to pay his respects.

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12 comments on “PAY ATTENTION TO THE SILENCE Kate’s Journal

  1. What a great story, Kayti. I too am fond of grave-yards and even visited the best of them all, in Buenos Aires many years ago. I must say though that your Dr A cousin’s choice of a rough rock instead of a marble slab is admirable. Always truly sad when babies are buried. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you Kayti.

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    • We enjoy the old grave yards–you can almost reconstruct the people and the history of the community. I especially loved the old ones in Paris and try to slip in a visit now and then. Such old and familiar names.
      Here on the East coast there are many Revolutionary and Civil War graveyards. My American ancestors came here early, in 1630, and I have chronicled the stones there. It isn’t as interesting to see modern ones with their flat bronze markers sunk into the ground. One of the most fun places was in Jamaica where tombs are above ground because of the water table, and baby goats frolick over them.

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      • I remember my (late) daughter visiting Oscar Wilde’s grave in Paris. I was so proud of her. Russia is big on graves too. One can see whole families taking their picnic baskets there and have a good time with the dearly departed. Graves should always be well looked after, I think.
        I don’t want any plastic flowers.

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    • That Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris is probably the most interesting and beautiful I ever went to.

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  2. This post is a winner! What a vital storyteller you are, AK. The last scene, with the old dog pausing to sniff the grave is a hoot. I hope you are continuing to improve each day.

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  3. I too love cemeteries, for many reasons. Lovely words. πŸ™‚

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  4. I used to be anti-plastic flowers, too, but I’ve mellowed over time. Granted, they can be a little over-the-top, especially with the various other offerings that are left, but they’re colorful, and generally well-tended. I just came across an isolated black cemetery a couple of weeks ago. Even though it was down a dirt road, hidden away in the trees where it couldn’t be seen by anyone who didn’t know where it was, it was filled with flowers: all plastic, but fresh and neat. The message was clear: someone still cares.

    As a matter of fact, when I took my mother’s ashes to Iowa for burial with Dad, I left artificial geraniums at the grave. They weren’t plastic, but some of that high-quality silk. Still, as a solution for someone who can’t travel a thousand miles to tend a grave on a regular basis, it works.

    I’ve seen a few of those rough-rock markers around, and like them. The old cemeteries in Texas are interesting because of the tales they tell of the various ethnic communities who lived here. On my way home from my last trip from the hill country, I passed the church and graveyard in Danevang (!), and I was surprised by the Vietnamese section of the Palacios cemetery.

    Cemetery caretakers and gravediggers are interesting sorts. The fellow who dug my mother’s grave was a tall dude, who used his body to measure things. For a box of ashes, he dug until the hole was deep enough that he could step into it up to his knee. For a coffin, waist-high was the ticket. Why do these things make me laugh so? πŸ™‚

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    • Danevang! Who knew? How in the heck did those old Danes find their way down to Texas? Fascinating, and they even have the Lutheran cemetery.

      The old cemeteries are the most interesting of course. And to see whole families clustered together for eternity is a comfort I’m sure.

      When Dr. A’s father sold the trucking company, he bought up several different businesses. One summer evening after a family BBQ he told us that if we could guess what he just bought we could have part of it. No one could guess that it was a cemetery/crematorium here in town! No one guessed and took him up on it. He didn’t keep it long. It has a Japanese section with old farm families in the area.

      I retract my feeling about plastic flowers; I can see they have their place. When I was young I couldn’t understand why there was no “sign off” date on some stones. Of course people move away and are not buried where they had planned to be. The flat bronze plaques are not as interesting as the stones, though they tell the same stories.

      I love how the caretaker measured the depth of his hole. I had a green felt card table cover with fringe on it which substituted for a gravecover. Needless to say I never told a bridge group where it had last served its purpose.

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