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The Cities of Silence

They are all across this land, some consume acres, and others are less than a bl
ock. You will see some in the city walled off or fenced in, or in the corner of
a family farm. They are seen on gentle sloping hillsides, there are also the chu
rchyards. I have driven past them; I have been there to serving as funeral direc
tor, to officiate the service, attend graveside services, or to pay family respe
cts on holidays or death date anniversaries.
This is what I observed about the . . .
"The Cities of Silence"
Some are marked with entrance quite grand, with manicured gardens like Buckingha
m; parceled out in silent neighborhoods of avenues and streets. Where on pathway
s smooth and straight elegant coaches in procession of finery most grand pass un
hurried by beautiful flower beds, trimmed shrubbery and stately trees.
There are other cities of silence without such grand splendor, it maybe a church
yard or belong to the county, or a private family plot with archway gates and fe
nces of white. The caretakers are the families whose loved ones are buried there
. They tend to the mowing, trimming and weeding; it is tidy and neatly kept.
The out of the way cities of silence might be marked with a small sign at the ed
ge of the road with border fences rusting with age. A poor place, sadly neglecte
d, no longer needed, where in a time long ago simple processions of a horse draw
n wagon or when pallbearers would shoulder the coffin, as the family and mourner
s would walk close behind on pathways rutted and worn to the departedâ s final restin
g place. The old wooden grave markers bleached by the sun are rotting away, some
of the graves have sunken. It is a place succumbing to wild flowers, tall grass
, trees, and thorns. A forsaken graveyard wilderness ravaged by time that even d
eath would mourn, sometimes the curious will stop and look, possibly walk these
lonely cemetery grounds. There are no caretakers, as most of the families are go
ne, forgotten. Yet sometimes the dead are remembered by later generations in les
ser table conversation. The who is who is a dusty old ledger book that is the re
cord, it lists who is who and their location by section and plot.
The sentinels of these cities of silence are no worse for wear, they are the gra
ve marker headstones standing cold stone faced, blind, silent, and are varied in
size and shape. Some are like tottering old men, others are sunken, tipped or b
roken, others are moss covered or so weathered and worn that the inscription can
not be read. Of their colors they are rose pink, slate gray, marble noir. The mi
litary white markers in well ordered rows stand as if ready for review. There ar
e the other monuments ornate and grand, highly visible, some are like towering s
tone generals. There are those sentinels not seen, the flat markers, it makes fo
r easy mowing, or maybe it is to remove the sure and certain reminder of these c
ities. The new sentinels in time will become like mannered - beaten, dingy, weat
hered and worn.
The mausoleums and crypts are the cemetery mansions above ground. There is no do
or bell or door knocker, no porch light is on. The doors that will open have loc
ks, if the key could be found, you could gain entrance go in and sit down. Now t
he doors are chained because of vandals and to keep the thieves out; others have
windows to see in, not to see out. The family plots are lavishly exquisite, sur
rounded by hedgerow or iron gated and fenced in.
These silent sentinels whether grave marker, mausoleum or crypt, in silence make
a final statement - "Here Lies" - These voiceless sentinels of stone like the m
ystical syrens of the sea sitting at the shores edge above their watery mansions
, that seem to be calling out in a whisper "it's not if" but "when" . . . Like t
he grave they are never satisfied.
The surplus population have their own place to be, "Potter's Field", it is for t
he forgotten, the lonely and unknown, their earth's final address, their final h
ome. The county secures it for the poorest of poor, who have not one penny to sp
are. When these poor souls are laid to rest, the only attendants are the underta
ker who provided the plain pine coffin, a pastor who will read from the Psalms a
nd say a prayer with some thought; while standing quietly close by is the grave
digger and his son with shovel in hand, they will take off their hats in respect
, how touching, how grand. There will be no sentinel of marble to mark this thei
r spot, there will be nothing but a wood stake or a stone with a number on it. L
ike those lost at sea, who remembers, who cares. Maybe the birds do, as they pic
k this field over for their daily provision, here the squirrels and field mice m
ake it their home, here where they the unknown are safe.
There are comforts in some of these cities, shade trees for those who come to si
t and read, or to jog, or walk. Some come to just sit and reflect or pass the ti
me of day, for some it is a place for the weary to rest. There may be a water fo
untain for slaking the thirst, here where "Quiet" and "Solitude" are the ever-fa
ithful patrons. For those on the outside it is "hurry, pass by, pay no attention
." Occupants never leave, visitors stay long enough to bury their dead or pay re
spects with a remembrance of flowers that in time will wither and fade. Occupanc
y is on demand, sometimes that day. Some plots to be occupied will remain vacant
for years.
Everyone in these Cities of Silence has ties to the other related or not, for al
l have shared in the same disposition. Kings and prices beside paupers and the l
owly, queens among the distaff, the grand and the elegant near the distained and
disgusting. There are fathers and mothers and their parents too. The strong and
the healthy are cast among the old and infirm. Those who were diseased and incu
rable, they are no longer robbed of their life or their beauty, because with dea
th the life robbing has stopped. Here there are histories of the glorious and da
rk etched in stone that tells their name and the dates of their living and dying
, it is a reference point. Others have no past as they never had a future; they
are the babes and the children in their own special place called "Baby Land" wit
h a marble statue of a recording angel at the entrance. What brought these babes
and children to these Cities of Silence, what was the apprehender that brought
this their death, was it unseen and to remain unknown.
Here in these Cities of Silence crass behavior has ended, there is no intimidati
on, arguing like the dust "it is settled." Hatred like a wisp of smoke or fading
embers from a dying spark that fleetingly says, "it is over" and is silenced by
the grave. Here where the hours are eternal, and observed from sunrise to sunse
t, hallowed places where the breeze whispers something about "do not disturb . .
. "
These Cities of Silence are arrogant, steeled, hushed and quiet, ignoring the vi
sitors and participants of the day. Where the entrance does read "Welcome" and g
oing back out does not read "Thank You, Come Again."
For we the living, when time has run out and we are summoned, we quietly go. Wha
t has been is done, thus we come to our end, to rest with the ages, to the earth
once again, and to "The Cities of Silence."
To the loves of our lives "Farewell . . ."
The field of the living is level in the presence of death - In the place of the
dead is no respecter of persons, all are equal . . .
Job 3:17-19
There the wicked cease from troubling,
And there the weary are at rest.
There the prisoners rest together;
They do not hear the voice of the oppressor.
The small and great are there,
And the servant is free from his master.