St. Columba - St. Patrick Cemetery
As many of you know, the late Neil Alhart hired me as the caretaker for the St. Columba - St. Patrick Cemetery back in 2008. It has been a special and very rewarding job. So many folks comment on the condition of the cemetery and that means a lot to me!
I get to meet a lot of relations of the folks that I knew for so many years that are now put to rest in the cemetery. We talk about old times and lots of memories come from the talks.
It never surprises me at how folks remember their deceased family members. Stones are decorated in such a fashion that you almost tell what the deceased's lifestyle was. You can tell what sport they liked, what flowers they liked and the love they had for their children and grandchildren.
One day I was coming back from lunch and I saw two fellows setting in lawn chairs by a grave stone. They had a cooler full of beer and were enjoying the summer sun. I asked what they were doing and they said that they were having a few beers with their Dad, who was buried next to where they were setting! Did I have a problem with that? Not at all!
On another occasion, a young girl came to me and asked if I knew where a certian person was buried. I knew and showed her the spot. Come to find out it was her Mother whom she hadn't seen in years. The young girl became very distraught and stayed for quite a long time. I became concerned for her and went to her side. We talked for a while and it seems she had finally made peace with her Mother.
I guess the most heartwarming time is when, one sunny afternoon while I was mowing, I heard someone playing a banjo. I found the source of the music coming from a gentleman standing over his father's grave with banjo in hand.
At this time I will let that gentleman tell you his story ----
"Whenever I, John Wood (CMCS 1982), visit my family in Caledonia, I always bring a banjo with me.
My father's health faltered his last three years, to a point we painfully had to place him at the Lakeville Nursing Home. However, Dad loved that I had taken up this new passion of banjo playing and was always encouraging me because he knew I could do this for the rest of my life. So whenever I visited Dad, I would play the banjo for him. There were numerous times when I would play for the residents of the nursing home also. I looked at it as a neat little chance to enrich some well worn lives.
When James Sr. passed away on Christmas Day 2008 I started my own tradition, which accidentally started the day of the funeral. I was supposed to play "Amazing Grace" during the ceremony at St. Columba Church, but the priest forgot about it. When the funeral procession arrived at St. Columba Cemetery I wound up playing his instrumental "Amazing Grace" after the Military salute. That little mistake turned out to be a sweet blessing. In the end, it wound up being a far more appropriate occasion.
Since then, whenever I visit family and friends, I always take the time to visit my father with banjo in arm. I will just play whatever is in my head, then carry on a conversation with him with whatever is on my mind. I always like to think he is listening to and enjoying me being there."
There you have it folks, one of the wonderful stories that comes out of the St. Columba cemetery. I hope you enjoyed Jim's story as much as I have.
I have found that the cemetery gets a lot more visits now and folks are taking better care of the family plots.
Don't forget if you don't have someone buried in the cemetery please come and become a member of my F.F.F. (Flowers For the Forgotten) club. There are a lot of older graves that have no family left and are not attended, please come and adopt one. It won't cost much to put a simple flower on a forgotten one! If you are interested, I will direct you to a forgotten one.
Thanks to Father Mickey McGrath and his efforts, we now have an identification sign at the cemetery. This was something that Neil Alhart always wanted to have done. Under the sign is a 4ft x 10ft planter that we plant geraniums in during the summer and mums during the fall. If someone would like to plant a geranium in memory of a loved one, we have room for 24 plants. You buy the plant and we will plant it and take care of it. The same goes for mums in the fall. We have room for 11 mum plants. The only condition is that the loved one has to be buried in the cemetery. If you are interested in this program please call me at 585-538-2309 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. First come, first serve.
One other item, we have had a lot of flowers, some solar lights and other items being taken off of the graves. The families put these items on the graves for a reason and it is a shame that some un-caring person removes them. Remember -- you will eventually have to account for your actions!
I will close for now.