Friday, June 07, 2013

Mowing over Grandpa

The Jacob Epps of Eigenheim

The Eigenheim Mennonite Church Cemetery
12 kilometres west of Rosthern lies the Eigenheim Mennonite Church cemetery where the remains of all those who died as members since 1892 “lie in repose.” In summer, the men of the membership tend the cemetery on a rotating basis; yesterday the lot fell to my crew and most of us showed up with mowers to clean the place up. It took us the better part of two hours; it’s not easy working around a variety of headstone styles, many with concrete covers and because the water table has been so high for the past few years, many graves have been sinking, making mowing over them almost impossible.

               In Saskatchewan, 2013 appears to be the year of the mosquito.

               Cemeteries suggest stories. Many of the dead have their final bed marked only with a metal plate with their vital information inscribed, while some have been honoured with tasteful, expensive marble headstones. I spent a few minutes pulling stray grass stalks from the grave of Lena Plett, her eternal marker a homemade concrete cover and crude headstone with only her name scratched in with a stick. It’s not a very big pad so I assume Lena Plett was young, a child of a family without means to honour her as she deserved, doing their best with a few loads of concrete mixed—no doubt—in a wooden wheelbarrow.

               Other graves are visits back to an irretrievable past: Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa Epp, Grandma and Grandpa Ens, Uncle Henry, brother Bob, daughter Geraldine and on and on, a seemingly endless array of uncles and aunts, cousins and neighbours, their faces rising again as we push our mowers back and forth between the rows.

               We don’t much like tedious work among hordes of mosquitoes. Who does? And so we talk about ways of restoring the cemetery to make it easier to tend, pouring concrete curbs and placing the headstones on them, leveling the places between so the whole could be made tidy with a few riding mowers. But there are difficulties with any plan: too much cost, work and commitment, possible protests from families of the dead to name just two.

               I plan not to burden future members with yet another headstone to tidy around. Cremation and a simple urn buried with a post-hole augur on my daughter’s grave is the scenario I’ve chosen.

               We look back when we’re finished mowing and note with satisfaction that we’ve done justice by our deceased relatives; their home is in good order once again.

               If only life could be as orderly, as neat and tidy. (On second thought, scratch that absurd idea.)

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