Riverside Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio USA
By Mark William Darus.
I spent the early evening at Riverside Cemetery to take photos. I had a few thoughts crop up as I fired shot after shot. Mostly taken in Black and White, I meandered about the lengthy grounds. Interesting internal vides and sensations filling my body, those mixing with an odd feeling of being watched as I strolled amongst the headstones and statues of the monuments to the dead.
About halfway through the shoot, I made an observation: The statues had two distinct stances. The statue faces would either look nearly angry or almost sad as they looked to the heavens. The ones that peered downward toward the deceased conveyed peaceful, contented expressions.
I cannot imagine the incredible talent of those that carved these monuments. The time, effort and inspiration to create such lasting beauty in a time so far and away from power tools and a century before computers. They must have possessed well callused hands as they chiseled bodies, pillars and highly detailed faces that would last well over a century of North Eastern Ohio’s drastic weather changes. These carvers probably didn’t use gloves of any sort, making me wonder what their wives must have felt as their rough skinned hands, during tender filled moments of intimacy, traversed their bodies with both passion and love.
Riverside Cemetery was founded in 1876, just ten years after the end of the American Civil War. A more innocent time, perhaps, when the only beer around was Yuengling, and penicillin was not known until some 52 years later. Many of its residents passed well before 1928 from infections that penicillin and tetanus (vaccine created in 1924) could have cured.
Today, we’d almost laugh at such death by infection. If you ever want to view the value of growing modern medicine over the decades, just take a stroll through a cemetery that is older than 100 years. Look at the life spans in comparison then to the contrast of now.
Think about this: How many of you in the over 45 yr old crowd had grandparents placed with the cause of death being that of ‘old age.” Nowadays, there is no such thing as dying of old age unless you are over 100 years old and some coroner decides to be gracious.
Riverside Cemetery has an area called: Gods Little Acre. I did not photograph this area for reasons I will keep to myself. Its residents are those of children that died at very young ages, mostly from Polio outbreaks and lack of medications we take for granted today that are a normal part of pediatric vaccinations to protect them. This area of time, many small children passed so very young that, to me, is almost haunting. I cannot imagine the utter grief and anguish of the parent watching their child expire before their very eyes. I believe the worst fear of any parent to be this: To outlive their own children.
This cemetery is unusually quiet given its locations. A mere 100 yards from a major freeway, I-71, and about a quarter mile from Cleveland Metro General Hospital ER that seems to have an endless amount of Emergency traffic from both land and air. It is incredibly serene.
As I mentioned before, I sensed I was being watched. I don’t acknowledge paranoia with myself, but there was something there. Fine, I was walking over the resting areas of the dead, but I did get goose bumps which covered my arms. I heard one thing connect with my mind: “just do this right.”
It is my hopes you enjoy this entry. Visit a placed of those passed and meet them. Look deeper toward the monuments created for the deceased by loved ones. You’d be amazed with what you might find.
Today, I actually saw a woman hand feed a deer. She even told the deer to ’give paw’ and it did! Out of courtesy to her after sharing surprised and happy thoughts with her, I did not publish photographs of her except for her hand as she fed it.
It is no longer enough to take time and smell the roses. One must embrace all things given to us as we have so little time to share those experiences with others.
Mark William Darus 09172012
Authors Note: My parents: Ted and Marion (that's Marion with an 'O' as she'd so often tell others) and my grandparents remains reside in Riverside Cemetery. I dedicate this entry to them.