“She Made Home Happy” by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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pfm_cemetaryFamilies have different ideas of what they view as a “fun” adventure on a beautiful day. Some enjoy amusement parks or going hiking or going to the beach. My family? We enjoy going on a good grave hunt! (Yes, it is entirely possible my children will be discussing this with their therapists when they are older.)

I’ve always enjoyed cemeteries. I find them peaceful places. As a child, my parents would take me as they dutifully brought flowers to the family gravesites. I would explore the nearby graves with interest. Who were all these people? What were there lives like? As a teenager, my father taught me to drive in a cemetery. As a young adult, one of my best friends lived right next to a cemetery. We spent many enjoyable evenings walking the grounds. I’m trying to share my love of cemeteries with my children.

To make these cemetery trips more interesting for them, we try to find certain graves for them to look for, a treasure hunt of sort. This past week found us at the Stockbridge Cemetery, about an hour from home. We were searching for three graves in particular: artist Norman Rockwell, theologian Reinhold Neibuhr (author of the Serenity Prayer) and Elizabeth Freeman (a freed slave). Amazingly, we were successful in finding all three.

As we searched the graves, I made a point of praying for the souls of the people whose remains laid beneath the ground. Many had left this world a long time ago. Who knew the last time someone had said a prayer on their behalf? But our time is not God’s time, and prayers for souls are never wasted. If they are not needed by the soul for whom we are praying, they are applied to another soul in need. Just as when as I when a little girl, I still wonder about the people whose names are on those stones. A life cannot be summed up on a tombstone. Most modern stones offer little more information than a name and two dates. Older stones offer more of a tribute to a person. The one that struck me most on this particular journey was that of Mrs. Julia Hawkins Brown. She died on January 18, 1898 at the age of 74. Her epitaph reads “She Made Home Happy.”

What a wonderful tribute to a person! How thankful I would be if, as a wife and mother, I was remembered as making home happy, of bringing joy and peace to our domicile. Of course, there are other things I’d like to be remembered for. I’d like to be remembered for being a good Christian, for being kind to others, for being a hard worker, and for being a good writer. Yet, if I do all those things for the rest of the world, and fail in my domestic duties, I really haven’t accomplished much of anything. After God, my family is my first priority. I hope that I succeed in making our home a happy one. I hope that is how my children and (hopefully) grandchildren will remember me. Maybe they will even put it on my gravestone, and some stranger will come by a hundred plus years after my death and stop and say a prayer for me and think I was a good woman.

Copyright 2010 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this! You reminded me of how my husband and I used to like walking throught cemeteries — something we haven’t done in a long time. We’ll have to get back into it.

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