Part of an ongoing effort to dredge my grandfathers’ photos out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unappreciated, and bring them out for contemplation.
Another installment, then:
As best I can determine, there is no Tumblr site devoted to Pictures Of People At Their Own Graves.
When there is, maybe I’ll have to tip somebody off to this one:
They look amused enough, don’t they?
We’ll start with the guy on the right. That’s my Great-Uncle Jimmy, or James W. Cahill to the taxman and the stonecarver. If you’re a long-timer here, you’ve read about him before.
The woman in the middle is my maternal grandma, and also Jimmy Cahill’s sister. Her husband, my grandpa, is presumably behind the camera.
(It might be their big blue Oldsmobile parked in the background, as well.)
And the woman on the left is my Great-Aunt Jean, a.k.a. Eugenia N. Cahill, Great-Uncle Jimmy’s wife. Her maiden name was Okonenko, and Marie, the other future tenant of this grave-space, was her sister.
I can only wonder what brought about this visit. Clearly they were not there for someone else’s funeral; they weren’t dressed for such an occasion.
Perhaps they were passing the cemetery en route somewhere else, and Great-Aunt Jean and Great-Uncle Jimmy had just bought their stone, and they decided to show it to my grandparents since it was something new.
Or maybe their graveside stopover was driven by the desire to laugh at death — or celebrate life, the other side of the same coin.
One of the Cahill siblings was killed in World War II. Another brother died, roughly 15 years before this photo was taken, from the long-term effects of alcoholism. A sister, who was mentally disabled, spent many years in the care of the state of Connecticut.
So maybe my grandma and her brother took enjoyment in the thought that they were on the right side of the grass, and still reasonably healthy, and free to go order a big steak and a cold beer if they felt like doing so.
These are things we often take for granted, but could stand to acknowledge a little more often than we do. Death will get us all in the end … but it hasn’t yet, and until it does, we might as well strut our stuff here.
I don’t suggest we start turning our cemeteries into party destinations or anything, but laughing at the future site of one’s grave seems as whole-hearted an embrace of life as any other I can think of.
(Great-Aunt Jean doesn’t seem to buy it like the others do. Maybe it’s an Irish thing.)