How Do We Touch People’s Lives

How Do We Touch People’s Lives


If you know me well, you know I am intrigued by cemeteries. I will always, almost subconsciously, comment on one when we drive by it and will almost always, beg a family member to walk around one when I find one interesting. Since we moved downtown, I have been asking family members, even those who visit from out of state, to walk around Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

Opened in 1856, it is the place where many distinguished members of Nashville now call home. It is also the place where many more unknown people, except to their families, now call home. These are the people I’m always interested in, the ones who are buried among the famous, the ones which might have done great things, but no one knows their story. There are no little posts by their graves that say “Tour Stop 5,” and there are not giant headstones marking their final resting place. Sometimes you have to push the leaves away from a stone marker level with the ground to see it inscribed “Faithful Friend of 70 years.” I was more interested in this lady and her story than I was with finding George Dickel’s grave (although my recent stint as a bartender made me a little curious) or the colossal pyramid marking the grave of Major Eugene C. Lewis.

You couldn’t miss those big ostentatious headstones even if you tried, as I’m sure you couldn’t miss those people in real life. But if you weren’t careful you’d walk right over Mary and her tiny stone. I guess you wouldn’t have noticed Mary right way in real life either.

As I often do when visiting cemeteries, I concocted the life of Mary. She was the person you could always count on for a ride if you needed it, for lunch when you were lonely, for coffee when you just needed to vent and I bet you could even knock on her door and ask her for a cup of sugar. She would, of course, give you two, just in case. She was quiet and unassuming; she worked behind the scenes, maybe not even knowing she changed your life; Mary was doing what she did best, being a friend. I obviously never met her, but out of all the 250 acres of notable dignitaries and I do mean dignitaries, there are senators, mayors, governors, civil war generals, she is who I’m still thinking about a day later. In my mind, she deserves to be buried among all these famous people.

When we were leaving the Cemetery yesterday, the conversation turned, as it almost always does, to our burials. Rob’s changes as often as the wind and yesterday was no different. He wants a chaise lounge as his headstone with WiFi, LED lights, and a webcam, “so people can get some work done while visiting.” Mine is always the same; I want a bench under a tree where people can come and visit me, talk to me, and reflect. I want lots of flowers there, always, but today I wanted something different. I want the addition of “Faithful Friend for 90 years” on my headstone.

2 thoughts on “How Do We Touch People’s Lives”

  • 1
    Cindi Moore on June 14, 2019 Reply

    I do the same thing!! The ‘unremarkable’ are the most remarkable to me. Thank you for sharing this! My nephew was recently buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Nashville – in the shadows of George Jones’s monument. I found it fascinating that such a sweet boy, that no one but his family and friends would know – and yes, he is legendary in our minds for all of his heart, soul, and kindness – but mostly for his struggles and pain. Though he preferred rap and hip hop music, his life was surely a country song worthy of the Possum. ❤️

  • 2
    Kevin Thompson on November 11, 2014 Reply

    Debra and I were walking Spring Hill Cemetary not long ago. Her Grandmother is buried there among the other more famous folks like Chet Adkins just as you spoke of. As grand as his little plot of land is there, your story reminds me of her Geandmothers stone. A concrete bench resides there to stop and rest a bit while you talk and a tree is just a few feet away. Obove her grave a limb from the tree hangs. This is where Debra changes out the wind chime that she keeps there when it wears from the weather.

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