Friday, November 2, 2001
Thanks for the reminder
The Kids Walk for Heroes was an example of the kind of event that defines us as a community. Planned on the grassroots level over a short period of time, aided by contributions from various town organizations, the walk evoked a response that staggered the organizers. With donations still coming in, the walk raised over $15,000. Hundreds of little feet pounded the pavement around Carlisle Center on a beautiful fall afternoon, raising money and marching into town history.
All the money raised will go directly to the New York Police and Fire Departments' Widows' and Children's Fund, but one could argue that there are many others who were the beneficiaries of that Sunday's walk. Every child who walked, every adult who worked or contributed, was reminded of something that we thought had been lost on September 11 that even in the face of overwhelming tragedy, we are not completely helpless: there is always something that we can do. As adults, we give blood or money; we send e-mails to our representatives; we work hard at going about our daily life, and we expect our children to do the same. But this event empowered them, teaching them that they have some control in a careening world. The value of this lesson cannot be measured; those who organized the walk have done more good than they know.
Memorials in Carlisle
This past Memorial Day, as we listened in the cemetery to the mournful echo of the Carlisle School band's trumpeter repeating the final notes of taps, my wife shared a sudden revelation: "We should buy a family plot here." I looked around, past the parents and town officials following the band on their tour of Carlisle's war memorials, and at that moment began an appreciation of Green Cemetery. Beautiful trees, some quite old, dot the grounds, which are surrounded by woods and some stone walls, with graceful gates opening onto Church Street and a stone arch onto Bedford Road. Among the more traditional plot markers, a few natural fieldstones carry family names.
The idea of buying a plot was appealing, as it seemed to be a declaration that we were putting down roots a manifestation of the growing sense that Carlisle might very well be our home for the rest of our lives. (Whenever I plant a sapling in the yard, I imagine my children bringing their children to admire the tree.) And my mother felt this would be a good final resting place for the ashes of my father, who passed away several years ago.
But was cemetery space a scarce resource in Carlisle like land for affordable housing, a new school or its septic system? Gary Davis of the DPW confirmed that plots were indeed available in a relatively new section of the cemetery, on Banta Davis Land near the baseball diamond, a proximity I appreciated. We purchased a three-grave plot, one of the few remaining prime locations by a stone wall shaded by trees.At $600 for 10 feet x 10.5 feet, this is the going rate for land in Carlisle (about $250,000 an acre), though half the cost actually covers perpetual care.
At the monument company where I ordered a flat marker for my father, I learned that Carlisle is almost the only local town that still allows fieldstones in its cemetery. Thus began my search in stoneyards and friends' woods for just the right stone for our family name. I was pleased to learn from a fellow at the stoneyard in Groton that the chosen stone, weighing something over two tons, has a history: It came from a bridge abutment on Route 3 some forty years ago. And long before that, he thinks, it was smoothed and shaped by the glacier which carried it here from upstate New York.
Carlisle's liberal policies allowed me to dig the holes for the stone, my father's remains and his marker by myself. Though this level of personal involvement may not be for everyone, I found it rewarding, as it gave me more of a direct connection to the process, a feeling I expect to carry with me whenever I visit the site. My visits to Green Cemetery will also be enriched by the history I learned from Sarah Brophy, from the family plot of the Greens, whose gravestones all face East, ready to meet their Maker on Judgment Day, to the later rectilinearly plotted sites as the cemetery expanded through purchases of Green land by the town. The history lesson culminated in a private viewing of the Wilson Memorial Chapel, a gift from Captain H. W Wilson to the town in 1907 for non-denominational memorial services.
A few weeks ago, a small group of family and friends gathered to commemorate my father's resting place, reading some poetry and placing flowers. When I showed them the chapel, beautifully renovated several years ago largely through Sarah's efforts after nearly a half century of neglect, a friend remarked, "You live in a classy town." I agree.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito