Graves in a wood

Nothing lasts but a legacy useful to the living.

Forgotten graves in a wood, the church is long gone.

Forgotten graves in a wood, the church is long gone.

I cycled out to the villages outside of Colchester, coming upon a strange situation by the side of the road.  A wood with graves, and no church.  I entered the wood and saw the many grave markers, many hidden in the undergrowth and woodland, forgotten and unloved.  From a creative point of view I enjoyed an opportunity to take metaphorical photographs on the subject of death and life, the supremacy of nature over humanity and on the subject of mortality.

The most recent of the graves dated 1904.  The church had suffered fire and demolition perhaps a century before, the graveyard abandoned to nature.  Sadly for all those buried in the graveyard there was nobody left in the locality that remembered or cared enough to tend their graves, the deceased abandoned and forgotten.

Death scares most people.  Most people fear being alone or forgotten.  Too many people live their lives out as a narcissistic Facebook profile.  Many people need fame, to live forever, to never be forgotten.  Most people, like those people in the graveyard, will when they die will vanish into obscurity, nobody will care, and no memory beyond some indifferent historical record will mark their passing.

I blinked, then time ate multiple years of my life.  I know when I blink again, I will probably be remembering this blog post thirty years from now as I attend someone’s funeral, reflecting on my mortality.  When I blink again, I will be dead, decomposing in some grave.

Sitting in my garden are ten acorn saplings in pots, my vision is that when I die a couple of great oak trees will live on to mark my anonymous legacy.  It is the harsh reality we all shall die, and most of us will be forgotten a few decades after we die.  The living rarely have time to remember or care about the deceased, since life demands their attention.  The legacy that each of us can leave that will get us remembered is something useful to the living like planted oak trees, because nobody cares about Facebook profiles and grave markers hidden in forgotten graveyards.


12 responses to “Graves in a wood

  1. My family has a plot of land where family members were buried on the land they owned. I believe that little part still belongs to our family, as well as the original home built in 1906. My cousin tends to it, but there is no other family on either side left in the area. I’m sad to think that one day, it will be like your photo–my ancestors long forgotten.

    • In the long distant past people did not move around as much as they do now, so a family story and graves might be tended and remembered for hundreds and even thousands of years. It is a sad reflection of the transitory nature of modern society that even amongst the living the family generations are separated by location due to work or other circumstance. You are fortunate that some little flame of your ancestral heritage lives on.

  2. Fabulous post, Alex. In part response to April’s comment and your reply, I believe it is inevitable that a return to closer, more integrated, community life is our future. That seems to me the only viable alternative to our present, carbon-consuming way of life. A way of life that has few years left.

    • I think you are right, the major challenges that are about to manifest across the world will cause people to draw together in their families and communities to survive.

  3. We both wrote about graves today, mine on Tomus about the mass graves at Tuam in Ireland, also forgotten.


  4. As always, lovely and thought-provoking post. On so many points, I must agree. Ironic, though, that much of my own Facebook use is to follow bloggers of genealogy, history centers, and the like. Just yesterday I came across a post I enjoyed, a poem called “Dear Ancestor…” addressing the importance of finding the tombstone of a long-ago deceased ancestor and feeling the connection. I shall email a copy of it to you.

  5. Marcia Dilworth Fruit

    Alex, Hope you enjoy this poem found on a genealogy site yesterday on tombstones:

    It is brief. Per chance it won’t open for you, let me know and I shall type a transcript via email.


  6. Many graveyards are becoming forgotten.. around 15 yrs ago a grave yard not far from away became really overgrown and neglected, the dates upon the grave stones matching the era of those you found… They got a bunch of lads who were unemployed at the time who did a marvellous job at restoring it.. Now its regularly mown and maintained.. But those visiting to lay flowers have long gone too..

    What a great legacy too you are thinking of bequeathing the earth… :-)… You are right with your thoughts many do not wish to touch the subject of dying and death… But I have no fear of dying, and already those left behind know of my wishes and I don’t want any one attending a plot I am no longer at.. 🙂 But rather like you, enjoy a spot in nature ….
    Wishing you well Alex.. Enjoy your week… Sue

    • Hi Sue, I think the only true legacy each of us can give is something living that benefits the living long after after we die. You also have a good week.

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