Monday, November 3, 2014

As the sun sets on the feast of All Souls

If you read my article over at The Catholic Gene about All Souls Day, you know that this day is very important to me. In fact, I consider it THE feast day for Catholic genealogists. (This is the day that our efforts to seek out the stories of the lives of our ancestors intersect directly with our Catholic faith and our responsibility to care for the souls of others. Read more in my article The Catholic Genealogists’ Feast Day: Lifting Your Family Tree to Heaven on All Souls Day).

In spite of the fact that our family had a very hectic All Souls Day this year with lots of activities, I was determined to be sure that we took time to commemorate the feast. It was late afternoon by the time a couple of my daughters and I finally arrived at the local cemetery to make a visit to my dear grandmother's grave. The sun was lighting up the gravestones beautifully as it descended.

We brought new flowers and, as we usually do, carried our small hand broom with us as we stepped out of the car to make our visit. My grandmother is buried under an oak tree, so we brushed aside the acorns that had accumulated since our last visit, and tidied up the place before we arranged the new flowers.

As we were doing so, we spotted a gentleman a stone's throw away who was doing a little tidying of his own around a gravestone. He was not, however, under an oak tree, but a pine tree, so he had a different problem: lots of pine needles. He was working diligently with a small rake and a number of cleaning tools, which interested me, so I walked over to say "hello".

We had a nice visit, getting a little tutorial about his method of cleaning his wife's gravestone, which looked immaculate, polished and shining beautifully. We thanked him and walked back to pay our respects to my grandmother before we planned to leave. A few minutes later, he walked over to us, supplies in hand, and offered to train us. After a minute or so of instruction, he left us with the supplies and tools and walked back to his wife's grave.

What a transformation! In just a few minutes, we had my grandmother's gravestone looking much cleaner than it had in a long time. It didn't look as professionally done as the one that the gentleman had worked on (and, as we learned later, had tended to several days a week for the past decade), but it was much cleaner and actually shined. The sun was getting closer to setting when we gathered up the tools and turned to walk back toward our benefactor to thank him. When we did so, we saw that he had finished his tidying up. He was standing still there before his wife's grave in the setting sun, Rosary beads dangling from his hands: a beautiful image for my girls and I to remember at the close of All Souls Day 2014.

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