Yesterday, my father and I visited the O'Hara Cemetery, just north of the village of Madoc. My ancestors on dad's side are mostly buried in the older part of the cemetery, near other stone relics that were once legible gravestones, but are now difficult, if not impossible, to read. I had packed a brush, water, paper, crayons, chalk, and a camera. In the end, the chalk technique worked best on stones with raised writing, while the paper/crayon etching method worked best on writing that is indented. I felt like an explorer.
We discovered several interesting things, including my great-great grandparents's burial place, albeit not the marker, and my great-grandfather's actual stone, his name barely legible. In fact, I pulled several limestone markers out of the earth, eager to discover names. I have a genuine reverence for these people, my predecessors, but to be there with my father was also profound. I think he found the experience a validation, of sorts. A confirmation of family history, of roots, of blood.
Unfortunately, much can only be imagined, and while my imagination was racing with images of hardship and fortitude, I would love their actual stories. Hence, the importance of markers - they say that we were here once, too, and our lives held narratives that shaped and affected the lives of our children. Some essence of them, genetically and spiritually, is who we are. Perhaps, even, some of their stories. I just have to find them.