It's an interesting range of feelings that come over me when I'm documenting cemeteries. Some of them, like the one out in Brenton, are full of people that are so distantly related to me (like the grand-nephew of the husband of a 2nd cousin 4x removed) that until I photographed their stone I had no idea they'd even existed. For these unfamiliar ones I just go through the area respectfully cleaning them off for the best photo possible, straightening what I can, taking the picture and moving on to the next one. In a cemetery like that I can usually get through it pretty quickly, even more so if it's overrun by mosquitoes. It's a rare one, though, when I can get through an entire cemetery without encountering a familiar name, related to me or not.
Then there are the ones like Kemptville, Plymouth, Pleasant Lake ... I grew up in Plymouth, went to church in both Plymouth and Pleasant Lake, and much of my family came from Kemptville. Going through these spaces is an altogether different experience. In the cemeteries in Kemptville I recognize most of the names as ancestors, whether closely related or not, they are family. Some stones I feel closer to than others, even if they aren't direct ancestors like grandparents ... many are distant aunts, uncles, cousins, however many times removed. A Gray on a stone makes me smile, those are guaranteed to be my people. The smile isn't always a happy one, sometimes it's more of a sympathetic one ... like for Joseph Gray and his wife Caroline (Woods). They had 13 children altogether, almost half of which died in infancy, often just days after birth. I see these stones, the names, the dates, and I can't even imagine what they went through. I tend to spend a little more time just standing there, being present for them.
In Plymouth and Pleasant Lake although parts of the cemeteries are very old, they also hold people that I knew personally. I get the same feeling for the old stones as I do in the other places, but inevitably I end up looking down at a name that I grew up with. The parents or grandparents of someone I grew up with, my own grandparents, aunts and uncles, my mother. As with the unfamiliar ones I still clean up the stones, straighten what I can, pull the weeds from around them, tidy up the area if it's needed. But as I do this I'm filled with a rush of memories.
Thelma Sims was the "boss" of Sunday School, she led the singing (will anyone who was there ever forget the day she asked for requests and Stacy Newell wanted to sing "Jesus watches my children while I go shopping"? lol). Ruth Purdy played the organ in church. Jean "the bean" Scott played as well, and taught S.S. classes. Going sledding down the big hill next to Aunt Bernice's house, later Aunt Carrie & Uncle Merrill's house (next door to the cemetery). Uncle Merrill standing by the record player playing along on his fiddle as Aunt Carrie played piano. Skating on the various ponds throughout Plymouth, sometimes with a nice bonfire on the side for marshmallow roasting and warming up. Ralph Churchill driving the school bus. Grampie also drove it, #22 ... later taken over by Dad. The day little Andy Newell died. The list goes on .....
When I drive through Plymouth these days it's obvious that it's no longer the village I grew up in, the landscape of the area has completely changed in so many ways but it's also so much the same as it always was. I see the old homes and recall who lived where, who I'd see when we went Trick or Treating every year, it's like nothing has changed at all. And then I walk through the cemetery and see the stones of these people I grew up knowing and I'm filled with feelings of melancholy, wistfulness, sadness. I feel richer for having known them all, and a sense of loss for their absence. They say you can never go home again, and in this case it's literally true, as the homes I grew up in are no longer there at all. But when I do go home and walk through these places it takes me more than twice as long as anywhere else. These are my people. I knew them ... I know them. I take a little extra time at each one and just remember. I may not be able to go home again, but I can never forget where I came from.