Last weekend I went to North Carolina for the first time. I’ve been through it or flown over it on my way to someplace else, but this was my first actual visit. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

And they have a lot of dead folks there.

Seriously, everywhere we went there were little cemeteries just waiting to be walked through. And so we did.


The best one though- my favorite, was a large and very old cemetery that we passed on the way to Boone as it was getting dark. We both spied it at the same time, noted that the gates were open, and pulled in. No one else was there, presumably because they had sense enough to stay out of a cemetery when night was approaching.

“Just a couple of quick photos,” I said, and dashed out of the car door to start jogging through the headstones. After a few yards though I noticed something- this place was OLD. The headstones near me were very tall, thin, and toppling, reminding me of the ones I’d seen in Knoxville and Savannah. I stopped in front of one of the largest ones and could not believe how beautiful it was. It had been repaired many times over the years and as a result I couldn’t read the last name of the deceased in order to research her, but here it is. I was really moved by this one for some reason. I stood in front of it for quite some time as Shawn crept forward in the rental car behind me. Finally he got out to see what I was looking at.

DELIA This marks the sacred spot where rested the fair, the gentle, the lovely Delia. The perfect daughter, a perfect lady, she died 24th October —-, Aged 16 yrs. 


The ones surrounding me in the oldest section of the cemetery were just as amazing, carved with laurel wreaths, weeping willows, and wonderful examples of Victorian funerary art. I could have stayed all day, but it was getting dark quickly and I wanted to see the stone church on the property. By the time I got to the church the light was turning blue- all of these photos have been lightened for detail. This place is first on my list on a bright morning when I go back to North Carolina.


The church was small and crouched at the side of the cemetery, but it had some interesting features, including small buttressed sides and an outdoor hallway that had pretty lights hanging in the arches. It was all made of river stone and had large stained glass windows. To the side of the property was a labyrinth and a cremation garden. I wished we’d found it earlier, but we’d been going through another cemetery while the sun was up and we missed out on this one.

Here’s the thing- I never got the name of the church or the cemetery. I was so overwhelmed with the age of the place and the unique stones that I never even saw a sign. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll find it online”. NOPE. The closest town was Rutherfordton and we were off of 221. I couldn’t find it online, but maybe didn’t apply myself enough.

I would have liked to have known what Delia was like, or tried to find out more about her. Maybe on the next trip I can learn more about her and her family or speak to someone in the church about records to get the date of her death.

That’ll be another blog post.

St. John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Richmond

I was going to pass on posting this week in the aftermath of the Orlando mass shooting last weekend. The place where I have lived and worked for the last 16 years has suddenly become a place where I feel afraid to live and work, but I understand that these things take time to process and that there will be a day when the people of Orlando feel safe again, and feel like they’re at home. One thing that I do know from my own experience with violence is that it changes so many lives so rapidly. People who witness something like this are never the same again. The positive point here is that the good people of Orlando poured forth their love, time, and money to make this a gentler transition- if such a thing exists- for those involved.

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I decided to write this week about the last place where I felt completely comfortable and happy (no, I am not writing about my own bed). That place was the St. John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia on a rainy morning a couple of weeks ago. The wall that surrounds this beautiful space is actually so pretty that Caroline and I walked the entire city block, just to check it all out. Part of the wall on one side of the cemetery had been reinforced with metal bars to keep the wall from giving way- but it was holding its own and I was grateful to see that this place is cherished. The church dates from 1741 and since we were there on a Sunday, we did not go in because they were holding services. We did get to hear the bells ringing, and that in itself was magical.

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The cemetery ended up on our radar when we visited the Poe Museum (which was amazing!) and found out that Edgar Allan Poe’s mother was buried here. We had expected a modest stone, but there was actually a very large monument erected to her with a medallion in the center of a beautiful woman holding a raven. It was a fitting tribute to Elizabeth Arnold Poe, 1787-1811. In front of it was a blooming magnolia tree that perfumed the air with its lemony scent. The stones all around us were extremely old and many dated back to the late 1700’s, and sadly, many others could not be read. The church and historians had made valiant preservation efforts, everything from leaving headstones in the pathways through the churchyard to leaving them erected where they were and building around them. I literally looked down and found that I was standing on a grave- even though I was on the path. It’s not my normal practice to purposely stand on graves, I usually try to read headstones from the side to avoid standing on someone and potentially sinking into soft soil.

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Caroline said, “How do you feel about that? About what they’ve done here?” She indicated the gravestone.

“I’m just glad they left the headstone where it was. I don’t care if they bricked it in- at least that way it’s protected,” I answered. I thought of Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah with it’s wall of headstones that have been affixed to the bricks at the back of the cemetery. It’s overwhelming, but makes for a great hour of reading and strolling. In that case I was glad they still had the stones, but wished they could have been left in place. I understand that it’s not always possible.

St. John’s is especially famous for the speech that Patrick Henry delivered here with the famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” There is also a signer of the Declaration of Independence buried here, George Wythe, 1726-1806.

Caroline and I split up and looked around on our own for awhile and since we had been doing so much walking and I found a place to rest, I decided to sit down to wait for her to catch up. I sat on a step and leaned back for a moment, my hands splayed behind me on the brick, picking up their warmth. I turned and looked, and I realized that I was sitting right next to a large headstone that could still be read.

Ann Carty Alison Wife of Fr. Alison who departed this life April 18, 1793, aged 35 years
She was a kind and loving wife and tender parent and a good Christian.

About 223 years before a group of mourners had gathered in this spot to lay her to rest. They stood where I was sitting, looking down into the grave. I sat there for awhile, looking at the headstone, wondering what she was like and how she died. What horrors did she witness in her lifetime? What beauty?

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After 49 people died senselessly in my hometown this week, I go back to Patrick Henry’s words for courage.

“Besides sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.”

If you or anyone you know was affected by the shooting in Orlando, you have my deepest sympathy. I’m thinking today that I can walk into any cemetery and be mostly fine, but I can’t bring myself to go to the victim’s memorial downtown.