Stopping at a Cemetery on the Way Home

We’ve been staying in Frankfort for a while now, as the plumber has been finishing up his work on the house. So for our commute, we’re still taking Metra but we’re catching the line much further south – at Richton Park.

On our walks to and from the station, I noticed that there was a small church and cemetery situated alongside the parking lot. On further investigation, I learned that it’s Saint Paul’s Evangelical Reform Cemetery.

I mentioned to Liz last week that I would be interested to go check out the gravestones one day. And today – she redirected us on our route, and we walked up the small hill into the cemetery.

It is a really small area, with the gravestones widely spaced. A lot of the markers looked to be really old.

It was interesting to be in such a shaded and secluded area, a mere 10 feet away from a large parking lot and people walking back home from their daily commute.

Minnie F. Weinmann, Nov 28, 1858 – Nov 1, 1941

This is one of the first ones that caught my eye. I got transfixed, trying to imagine someone being born in 1858. For the time, this seems like a very long life (83 years).

Gertrude M Glaeser, Jan 13, 1893 – Dec 20, 1913. Asleep in Jesus.

One of a few gravestones that made me incredibly sad. Many were just names and dates, and little background on who each person was. But with a few gravestones, the years tell enough of a story.

20 years doesn’t seem like enough time, even for someone born in 1893.


A view of the cemetery, with our backs to the church. Several of the graves here, closer to the church itself, had been worn away by time and the elements. Eventually, I suspect all graves go this way – the words slowly disappearing until all that remains is a smooth, perfectly formed stone shape.

This was one of the oldest gravestones we saw. Hard to make out, but the dates are 19 Feb 1796 – 19 Juli 1879.

This was an odd marker – a design that was repeated for a few other gravestones. Unlike the others, this one featured a cylinder, perched horizontally atop a base. Not sure what this means, or if the design has any significance.

Roby, Daughter of Henry & Anna Harms, 1921 – 1923

When I saw this, I mentioned to Liz how the notion of reincarnation really seemed to be incredibly appealing. It’s lovely to think that we all get another chance, or more than one chance. As sometimes, some of our chances seem shorter than most.

On seeing this, I remember thinking “That’s not enough time.” And in some ways, I suspect that’s a thought that everyone has, with every life. Poor Ruby.

As the sun was setting, the mosquitoes came out. Reflexively, I swatted at one that had landed on my arm and bit me a little, before I got him. I noticed his little body, and was surprised to see a little bit of my own blood. It seemed not morbid, but appropriate, that I should take a photo given where I was.

M. Trenary, Died 1914, Age 2 Months 16 Days

Absolutely heartbreaking. As I stooped to take a photo of this, Liz said to me “I was hoping you wouldn’t see that one.”

M. Trenary died a hundred years ago, having lived too short a life. How lucky are the rest of us, we that can count our lives in terms of years? How sad that there are some of us, who can only measure our lives in days?

I view cemeteries in the same way that I view poetry: both provide us pause and perspective. Though I had no family here, I walked between the headstones trying to imagine individual lives, trying to see each name as a person instead of simply letters on stone.

Every headstone in every cemetery is a marker of loss, of what was and is no longer. But particularly painful are the headstones of children, which mark both loss and potential – of all that could have been.

If nothing else, and perhaps above all else: the dead teach us that every day counts.

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