Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Memorial Monument Presentation

My Memorial Monument

When trying to decide what to do for my memorial monument, I was somewhat at a loss in the beginning because it was in a way scary to imagine it but, when I took a step back and looked at it as an artistic way of leaving a simple reminder of who I am and what I want to leave behind it became much easier. Doing this was in a way like decorating a MySpace page. It is a way to show who you are without someone ever meeting you. I decided to be creative (as much as I could be) and make my monument look as realistic as one in a cemetery but, put my own spin on it so that it felt more like a happy thing to look at rather than something to mourn. I decided that the actual memorial itself would be a fountain. The iconography book correlates the idea of a fountain to the Virgin Mary, who is widely regarded as the fountain of living waters. Although I could never see myself as being as precious and divine as the Virgin Mary, being Catholic I have always looked at her in statues and read about her and aspired to be the kind of woman she was. She always gave me the sense of being caring, devoted, nurturing, and the image of safety. As a woman, these are all the things I want to aspire to be in my lifetime. If I never become a famous actress or writer, I want to know that I cared for someone with all my heart, stayed true and faithful to all those I met in my life, and provided the feeling of safety, warmth, and nurturing to my children and loved ones to the best of my ability. The fountain is also symbolic to me because ever since I was little I grew up around fountains. My entire family loves fountains. We have them everywhere in my house. The sound of the trickling water gives me such a tranquil feeling and seeing birds and other wildlife drink from the fountain always gave me such a sense of pleasure because I am such an animal lover. A fountain to me gives the essence of ever flowing water, although each of us has a life that ends, life itself is never ending.
As well as fountains gracing my house, I always grew up with flowers everywhere. Both my dad and both my grandmas were “greenthumbs”. They can make anything grow and it always amazed me as a child, and still today as I have grown older the beauty that can come from a flower. I would have the images of colored flowers around the entire base of the fountain including my favorite of all flowers the Easter lily, which is also the symbol of purity, and the Hibiscus which is a beautiful flower of the Pacific Islands, which blooms into one of the most beautiful flowers but dies quickly suggesting the brevity of life. Although we all make mistakes through life, I have tried my entire life to be pure, good, and honest no matter what situation I come to face. Although I have made mistakes, I always tried learning from them, growing stronger and making sure to not make the same mistake twice, and to help others from making my same mistakes. I am constantly trying to be the best person I can be especially around children, because I want them to grow up feeling loved and to steer away from the negative and evil in the world. Children are my passion is life so, this also reflects the nurturing person I always want to be. Whenever I am around kids and adults you will usually find me surrounded by the kids playing games rather than off with the “grown-ups”. I guess you could call me a big kid! My boyfriend’s daughter has been one of my most inspiring challenges because each year that she gets older and struggles I try teaching her about staying true to herself, remaining as pure as one can be, and always fighting for what she believes in no matter what others do to hurt her.
I love color. My room has each wall painted a different color and thus my memorial would be bright and colorful. My favorite color is blue so of course the main piece, the fountain itself would be different shades of blue to not only represent my favorite color but the peacefulness of the color itself. I have always been told I have an old soul and that I should have been born in the sixties so, I must say there would be a peace sign on my monument somewhere. My friends and family have always called me a “hippie”, and anyone who knows me knows whenever I have the chance I have a flower tucked into my hair somewhere. I am usually the peacemaker in all arguments, and I have always hated fighting and done whatever I can to resolve conflict. I would have the sun and the moon on my monument because I love astrology. I have stars and moons all over my room, and my entire life I have always found great pleasure in lying in the grass and star gazing for hours.
One of my other greatest passions in life is animals. I am an animal lover to the extreme. I have always grown up with a zoo in my house. My pets are my best friends. I always feel they will never let me down, and they are always there when I need them. I believe they are more devoted and loving than most humans I know. Although I am terrified of bugs, I am the kind of person that does not have the heart to kill anything. I have a tattoo of a hummingbird because to me a hummingbird is rare, beautiful, and unique. It also gives me the idea of flying, which has always been something I wished I could have done each time I found myself in a hard time in life. I would certainly have a hummingbird on my monument to symbolize the importance of what it means to me as well as showing a piece of my love for animals since I would be unable to put all animals on my monument.
On my memorial I would also have a pair of ballerina shoes. I have danced my entire life and dance is one of my greatest passions in life. Even if I never go on to a competition, I dance because it helps me express myself and because I enjoy it greatly. Along with the ballerina shoes, I would have a music symbol next to it because I am a music lover. I love to listen to it, sing to it as well as play music. I have played violin for ten years and it was one of the most challenging yet, most amazing things I have ever been able to learn. The sound that comes from a violin is so beautiful and pure and it is one that always stops me in my tracks. Whenever I need something to calm me down I listen to music of any kind and I instantly begin either feeling better or crying my eyes out but, either way I am accomplishing something.
Nursing has been one of the hardest most challenging things for me to arrive to and accomplish. Although I still have not reached my RN, there would be a symbol of it on my monument. It is such a huge part of my life and who I am. I have always known I wanted to be a nurse because all I ever wanted was to help others. I have been the kind of person who wants to change the world for the better but, always known I am too small to do it alone so, I look at nursing as a way to help people one little step at a time. Making someone smile when they are at a hard time in their life has meant everything to me.
Among other symbols there would be a symbol of hands holding on my monument. Not just to symbolize my boyfriend and I but, all my relationships in life because without all the people I have had to hold my hand through hard times, I would never be who I am today. I would have the holy cross with ivy wrapped around it on the very top of the fountain to not only show my faith but, to show that no matter where you are in life, and no matter how religious you are, you always have to believe in something higher and more powerful than you, or else you will be lost in life without guidance and you will be tempted to feel better than those around you. The ivy would be there to symbolize fidelity, support, friendship, undying affection, and the trinity. This connects to me and reminds me of all the tough times in life where I felt as if I walked alone. I now know God was there with me each time never leaving me to bear it alone much like in the Footprints prayer, He was always my support even when I did not know it and even when I had given up on Him. Although I am not the kind of person who goes to church every day, reads the bible, or preaches about God’s will, I have always tried to be the best person I can be based on what I think God would want in his children. I have always tried to care for others despite what they have done to me. Although this has made me vulnerable, and I have been hurt many times because of it I would not change one thing about this part of my personality because it has made me who I am today. Along with the cross as a sign of religion I would want playful cherubs and guardian angels somewhere on my fountain. I believe that everyone has a guardian angel watching over them throughout life, and I would want one on my memorial to symbolize that someone was always there through life and will always be there, even in the after-life. I would not want them to have sad expression on their face, because that only makes those looking at memorials mourn life. I would want them playful and happy symbolizing the celebration of life.
I would also be sure to have the Italian flag on my monument because my culture plays a huge part of who I am. I love cooking so I would have something depicting my love of cooking. This is a very important family tradition taught from woman to woman in my family. I love traveling to Italy to be with my family, and take in everything the culture has to offer so the idea of travel would be represented somehow. Around the base of the monument I would have pictures of me in different parts of my life with those I love starting from birth to special occasions to the older age. This is something they do in Italy where you are left with an image of the person who lies there rather than just a name. This allows for people to feel much more connected to the monument. Since I have always loved taking pictures I would have more than one. I would have a hard time deciding the most memorable picture I have to depict who I am or the life I led.
Lastly, I would have two sayings on my monument and a prayer I have always lived by. “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved”, “Live to the fullest, Laugh at all the things that don’t matter, and Love with all that you have and more” and the Serenity prayer. These sayings and prayers have been with me the past five years of my life. Although that does not seem like a big chunk of time thus far, they have made a huge impact on my life. I had a really hard time during my teenage years and found myself in a hole not knowing what to do to find happiness. Although today I am a much stronger and happier person, I still refer to these messages to help myself make it through the hard times and find hope to one day be exactly where I want to be in life, not only with a career and family but, to be the person I have always strived to be and finally be truly happy with who I am. These messages are not only a constant reminder to keep working hard but, they are what I live by today.
I would have something simple like my name, date of birth, and day of passing and then something like “still dancing…” on my monument. I feel this leaves the essence that the soul of that who has passed on still remains the same. When we saw the monuments in the cemetery that had sayings such as “Gone Fishing” they truly touched me. It left me with such a warm feeling about a person I had never even met, and gave me the feeling they were happy wherever they were. That is the same kind of message I would want to leave behind. Although, my monument may sound extravagant I would not want it to appear that way. I would not want it to be huge, and on top of a mountain somewhere because I do not feel I am any more important than anyone else. I would want to be buried around my family and friends to keep the idea in mind that we will always be close even in the after-life. I would like to be around nature, a beautiful tree or garden and be as simple as the person I am but, truly show the beauty of what I had in my life and offer others to find that same beauty that I was able to have.
Ultimately, rather than being buried in a cemetery I love the idea of being buried near a waterfall, as near to nature and as far away from the craziness of life as possible. I would want it to be a place where people can come to relax and reminisce without the industrialization of a society’s impact. I realized on this journey through Spring Grove that although beautiful, it is a business and can still be a place where money and materials play a major role. I love the idea that in the after-life I could leave my image in a place, much different than the typical resting place where one can be left to return to nature and the earth in the simplest way possible. I would want my memorial to offer peace and hope to others and leave a positive message behind that others can take away with them as I have had the experience to do during my time at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Life, Love, Death & A Talking Raven

Is it possible to go through your whole life never feeling happy, almost feeling as if you were dead, and ironically after death you are finally given the chance to truly come to life? A strange question yes, but why is it strange? Is it perhaps that we are so caught up in life that we never truly have the chance to consider such questions, or is it that we avoid the idea of death and living life to the fullest until it is too late? I myself never pondered these questions, nor did I ever want to spend my time thinking about dying and the after-life. Let’s face it the life we have is too short, and it is hard enough as it is to find happiness and peace, so avoiding such eerie and saddening thoughts does not seem like such a bad idea. Undoubtedly, we are faced with hard times in our life, when it is hard to escape the harsh reality of losing a loved one, and the reality that one day we too will die but, should we take time to think about such things more often than not? Is it possible that by realizing these truths we revitalize ourselves in a manner that allows us to live a fuller and happier life? Although life is complex to understand it is usually a special person, place, movie or book that truly touches us and teaches us something important.
After reading A Fine & Private Place by Peter Beagle, I realized that I too had pushed so much in the back of my mind just to keep going that I was missing out on a lot. So, how can a book about an elderly gentleman living in a cemetery, two lost ghosts, a sarcastic talking raven, and a mourning yet bubbly widow teach us about life? When I first started reading this book I must say I was not only a little confused but, I was overcome with a sad and eerie feeling. I was really unsure how I would be able to make it through a book where all the characters seemed so depressed. Those who were dead wanted life and those who were alive seemed to envy those who were dead. The beginning of the book really had me lost in thought about my own death, and the frightening thought that I too one day could be stuck in between life and death. Beagle’s writing really made me ponder the idea that all my once beliefs about the after-life may just be a vision I had to romanticize the idea of death but, in reality the after-life could end up being a much less comforting place than I had hoped for. I think in life we spend so much time trying to find ourselves, find happiness, find a purpose, and escape the constant struggles that we like to think that one day all that will end ,and once we die that all our questions will be answered and we will finally have found eternal peace.
This book truly put a different spin on the after-life and despite my initial skepticism it really ended up touching me in a way unimaginable. I originally felt the book to be somewhat eerie and more of a fictional ghost story but, by the end my views had completely changed. I now truly feel that this book is a story about love, life, and finding fulfillment. Although it was fictional in many aspects I found myself constantly forgetting that. By the middle of the book I did not see anything strange about a talking raven, a man who talks to ghosts, or two ghosts struggling to find peace even after death. The book really pulled me in and allowed me to feel such a connection to the characters that the book became more of a story about them than anything else. I was able to relate to each character because I saw a little of myself in each of them. Never in a million years did I think I would understand a raven who decides to give up flying just because he is tired of it. Yet, how many times do we get irritated with the monotony of everyday life that we think “I give up, I’m not doing it anymore”. It was almost as if Beagle allowed us to step foot into a whole other world but, still made it feel like home. The book itself is not about being dead or alive but, it is about finding a balance, a truth, and a meaning. Michael and Laura did not struggle throughout the entire book because they were dead but, instead they struggled because they still felt no meaning in anything they had experienced thus far. It took their death to truly make them come alive! To me this book was like going on a search for a missing puzzle piece. You know it’s missing and you know you have to find it to make everything complete but, until you find it nothing seems to makes sense.
Mr. Rebeck needed Mrs. Klapper, and Michael needed Laura yet, it took the help of others to make them realize it. It seemed as if Mr. Rebeck had ended up in a cemetery in hopes of finding something else to live for yet, he wasn’t really living. Of course it was easier to help ghosts rather than people because the fear of hurting them is no longer there. I think he so desperately wanted to have a purpose in life that somehow along the way he forgot what he was looking for and became caught in middle of both life and death. Despite the fact he had become used to living in the cemetery, and found pleasure in talking to the ghosts, he was still missing something, and had Mrs. Klapper not come along and filled his missing half he would have never taken another chance in life. Mr. Rebeck thought too little about life because he wanted to escape it, and Mrs. Klapper was so involved in life and constantly needing to be busy that she missed out on the important things just as much as he did. Although they were both completely opposite, they were both missing the same thing in life and without one another they would have never found it. Michael and Laura were completely opposite much in the same way. Michael desperately wanted to hold onto life, and in the meantime Laura seemed pleased to have it finally end. Ironically, Michael had been the one to commit suicide and chose to end his life, where as Laura’s death was viewed more as a tragic loss. It wasn’t until their first argument over Michael’s wife and his possible suicide that they both challenged each other for the first time, and I feel it gave us the sense they needed one another. It was at that point in the book that I started seeing a passion and a drive in the characters, which once seemed to only coexist rather than actually live. It was as if without the other they had nothing pushing them, no interests, no curiosity, and nothing to care about, but together they had all they needed. I loved how Beagle let the characters go off on wild tangents in their minds and exposed us to it. It was as if we were in their minds and could really feel all they were feeling. It made me think of how much we have in our heads at times and how little we often are able to actually share with others. It shows how the fear of letting others down, not feeling good enough, and being afraid to get hurt can affect different people in different ways. This book reminds me that my constant fear of letting others down, and not feeling worthy enough constantly hinder all the good I could do because I am afraid to do it. I let so much of my life slip away from me because I spend too much time worrying about what my next move should be. Although I constantly say that life is too short it takes much more than understanding this concept in order to actually live by its powerful meaning.
I feel that deep inside each character obviously sensed something to be missing in their life but, unless that one special person had not come along they could have never solved it alone. To me is says a lot about opening up to others and never being afraid to ask for help. Too often we try to accomplish things alone for our own personal reasons, and this does nothing except keep us stuck in the same struggle day in and day out or simply make things worse than when they began. It teaches us not to be afraid, to trust others in a way, and shows us that no matter how different we may seem to one another we all need each other at some point in our lives. The love that was shared in this book was truly touching because it was the most pure and unselfish love that one can give. I feel that you cannot truly love someone until you learn to love yourself first and this book really depicts that. Each character was satisfied with just living because there was nothing else to do until they reached a spot in their lives where living was no longer possible and they needed something more. I feel they each transformed in their own way and because of this they were able to finally give in to the most powerful feeling of all, the love you give to someone else. None of the characters had much to offer the other yet, they still loved each other. The fact that two ghosts can truly love one another is a beautiful thought. In life we are so caught up with wealth, looks, and possessions that love is often the last thing we consider. This book showed us what undying affection for eternity truly means. Why is it when we say our vows that we say till’ death do us part? Why should death part anyone? Yes, it may part us from the body of a loved one but, it should never part us from their soul or the memories we shared with them. When we leave this earth nothing remains with us other than our minds, souls and memories, so if we worry more about material things during life what do we have left when life comes to an end? Michael and Laura truly loved one another and it was something that came easy to them. In life we find love to be hard to find and hard to keep but, in death they found simple things like sitting and remembering impossible yet, their love was true and pure and it had nothing to do with what they accomplished in life, what they had to offer one another, or the way they looked. Instead it was simply for love. There is something so inspiring about that.
Each character in this book began a journey as one individual, and ended as someone completely different simply because they found someone who showed them the true meaning of what was important in life and even death for that matter. Although written in a manner that may be considered fictional this book is one of the most realistic and touching books I have read in awhile. The idea of the supernatural and talking animals never once crossed my mind because the messages the book gave us were the very things we deal with in everyday life. It challenges us to dig deep into ourselves and consider things about ourselves and our lives that we never thought possible. If nothing else this book truly makes you take a step back and examine where we are in life, and to have a true appreciation for the many things we are lucky enough to have each day we are on earth. It teaches us to never take anything for granted and to make the best of all that we have.
This book can reach out to people of all ages because of how Beagle wrote it. Even at such a young age he was somehow able to combine the imagination of a young adult, the wisdom of an adult, and the innocence of a child all into a fascinating story. Was it a story about life and death? Yes in a sense it was but, it was more about what you do in your life that counts. It teaches us that second chances are possible even when we think it may be too late, and to never give up on reaching the ultimate satisfaction of feeling complete and whole as a person. You never know when that time in your life will cross your path and you should always be ready to take on any challenges with an open mind without letting fear control you. Is it possible to always know what is best in life? No, however where would the mystery be in life if we always try to solve things before they even have a chance of happening? This story truly tugs at your heart strings and compels you to live each day to the fullest, take things seriously, and to appreciate all you have yet, just let go sometimes and see where life takes us. You’ll never know if you don’t try!

Taking a look back on my Journey

When I first started this journey I had no idea what to expect. I must say although I was curious and excited about the experience ahead I was pretty apprehensive. It seems each time I begin an Honors colloquium I am struck by the same feelings. Although I usually worry about what I just got myself into, this time proved to be no different than the rest. At the end of this experience I have been left feeling exactly the same way as I have felt with prior classes. I have not only been pleasantly surprised by the class, I truly enjoyed it, I learned a lot, and most importantly I learned something new about myself that I will now never forget! It is amazing what being in a cemetery for eight weeks will make you realize about life in general as well as yourself. When I began this class and I shared with others what I was doing Thursday nights this summer I must say everyone was left somewhat speechless and needless to say I got the “you’re strange” look from everyone. Unfortunately, in the beginning I myself did not know what to expect so, I felt a little awkward myself but, my views have changed drastically over the past eight weeks. I started out looking at the situation open-mindedly and realized that there was nothing wrong with a new experience every now and then but, I was pretty unsure of how I would feel walking around a cemetery. Although I did not worry about zombies popping out behind monuments and coming after me, the eerie feelings most people get in a cemetery still lingered.
After my first walkabout I was still rather unsure of what to expect but, my curiosity was immediately sparked and I realized, although a little strange and still somewhat creepy, I wanted to know more. It began like any other adventure; I paid close attention to detail, took pictures of things that caught my attention, stayed quiet through most of the first discussions, and listened attentively to what was going on around me. Today, as I write this paper I look back and realize what an amazing experience it really was. Each time I drove through the entrance gates at Spring Grove Cemetery, I never knew what to expect and I felt somewhat like Mary Poppins jumping into chalk drawings and discovering a whole new world. Thinking back to my original paper, I can certainly say that despite not realizing in the beginning, I have grown through this experience and my views have changed as well.
In the beginning I knew a cemetery was important to the families of those who lie there because it was a final resting place where they could go to show a sign of respect but, I never once realized how much more there was to a cemetery. A cemetery is a world unlike many others. It offers services to both the living and the dead, teaches us about history without ever speaking, captures the beauty of nature, serves as a tranquil hiding place from the outside world, teaches us to live life to the fullest, allows us to have closure for the worst pain one could ever experience in life (the loss of a loved one), a place to show respect and a place for celebration, a place for forgiveness and above all a place for us to grow as individuals. I realized that a cemetery did not just have to be a place that held the remains of those who passed on but, it could be an open book to relive the memories of those who had been lost. It now makes me feel privileged to enter the gates of a cemetery so beautiful and realize how lucky our city is to have a place that truly cares as much for the dead as they do the living. When I think back to my own personal experiences I realized that although death can devastate a family, it can also bring a family closer. It shows us that life is short and that one should be grateful for each day we are given. Walking into a cemetery truly makes us escape the petty worries of day to day life and really take a moment to reflect on the important things. I realized when thinking back, I have never seen a fight in a cemetery or a person who appears angry. Everyone seems to come to a cemetery to find peace, which is not only ironic but truly astonishing that a place still exists on earth where peace can be found. When you walk into a cemetery time seems to no longer matter and it feels as if everything stops while you are there. Not only can you go to remember the memories of loved ones without the craziness of everyday life but, you can learn from the memorials of others whom you have never even met. Although I am Catholic, I rarely have a chance to go to church. I always convince myself if I wanted to talk to God, I should be able to talk to him anywhere, not just dressed nice in a church mass. I realized through this experience that being in a cemetery and pondering about life has brought me closer to God in a way I never imagined. I feel at peace in a cemetery and I feel as if he is always there watching over all who come through the gates.
The experience has taught me more than I could ever explain in words about myself but, it has also made a world I was never a part of come to life. I learned about the history of our city in a way that a history book could have never done. It was very interesting to realize that many of the great people of Cincinnati are buried in a place so close to us and although dead, their monuments still stand there teaching us about who they were and what we can gain from their lives to incorporate into our own. In a cemetery you can see a family reunion come together in the most unique way possible. There is a sea of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends and acquaintances all joined together in the after-life. It can teach us not only about who they were as individuals but, what they made possible because of who they were as a group of people. The family monuments were so astounding and it gave you the sense of commitment and faith to see the many families buried together. Each monument had its own story to tell and the most amazing part about it was that it was up to you how you viewed the messages they left behind. It was as if they left behind one of life’s most rarest and precious gifts, a piece of advice to us, strangers, someone who meant nothing to them, yet we now have something no one can take away from us and we can use it to make our lives the best they can be. Although some monuments were kept up better than others, Spring Grove seemed to do it’s best to keep the memory of all those buried there alive. Although you can be left with a feeling of anger or sadness when you see some with so much and others with so little you can also be left feeling that no matter how important a person became in life they are now the same as the ordinary person next to them. One monument may be bigger or prettier but, both have a message and neither one is more important than the other now in the after-life. The way Spring Grove cares for its members is truly touching to think about now that I have seen how bad other cemeteries treat those who lie there. It tells us a lot about a society when we see them caring for someone who has no say or input left to defend themselves. It gave me a feeling of hope in a sense because if we care that much about those who have passed on there is a light at the end of a dark tunnel for the harsh world we are living in today. Although I am unsure of what the future holds for cemeteries
I would love to think that there will always be cemeteries around that hold the true beauty of nature in a simplistic way while honoring all those who once lived. It saddens me to think that one day there may be nothing left and all our memories will just be dust in the wind. My hope is that there will always be someone who stands up for the dead and makes sure that there is always a place in this crazy world we live in where they can be laid to rest in peace.
Although I learned a great deal about the plant life, the materials used for building monuments, the cost for a plot, and many other interesting facts those are not the things I will take with me from this experience. I will take with me the knowledge I have gained about myself, the kind of person I am, the kind of person I want to be in life and the message I want to leave behind. I have learned that life is precious, more than words could explain. Each day and each second counts and although we tend to forget this because of the hectic lives we live, I am happy to know that because of this experience I will now think about that more often each day I am given to live. It will give me the chance to truly fulfill my dreams and live life to the fullest. Who would have ever though that being in a place typically seen as a creepy place filled with the dead could be a place to learn about life and how to live it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meeting with John Tallmadge

I must say tonight was by far my favorite class thus far. I was really unsure what to expect when I walked into class but, I extremely enjoyed it. I took so much out of the discussion we were able to share together that I was really touched by the end of the evening. John Tallmadge was wonderful! I had never had the chance to read any of his books or find out much about who he was so, tonight was certainly a learning experience. I found him to be one of the most down-to-earth, yet intellectual people I have ever had the chance to meet. He had a very refreshing personality and he made it beyond easy to talk to him. I felt that everyone really opened up tonight. I do not know why but, the whole evening had a special essence to it. Even the many of us who had been quiet during most lectures up to date really had the chance to share our thoughts and opinions on our journey thus far. We all really seemed inspired to share our feelings and for the first time I felt our class really came to life. It is amazing how sometimes just the simple things in life such as opening up and talking to one another can truly make everything fall into place. For me, tonight, everything that lingered in my mind finally started setting into place and really making sense. I felt our class went outside of all we had learned in the past few weeks and not only focused on applying concepts based on the class itself but, principles that we can take with is through our lives. I can say without a doubt that I heard things tonight that really touched me and inspired me in a way I never thought possible. When listening to Mr. Tallmadge I felt honored to hear his outlook on life. He explained things in a manner that really allowed me to reflect on my life up to date, what I want to make out of it and what's truly important. When he said that Spring Grove was a place that inspired us to think, a place that may not have all answers but, a place that will send us out on a search for them he really summed up the past eight weeks. I was awed at how he seemed to know what I had in my mind before I even said anything. It was as if he had been part of our class all along. I was really touched by how I felt he truly listened to all of us and how he made us feel like what we had to say was important. It was a great feeling to know that someone so wise found something "little old me" had to say as being worthwhile. I found him to be a very genuine person and I was really happy to have had the chance to meet him. I feel in a sense his presence really united our class. It was as if we all came out of our shells and allowed each other to see who we were. It really was a sense of companionship and closure to a great class. This class has by far exceeded any expectations I had. I never once expected to take as much from it as I have. I have found myself really looking forward to Thursdays the past few weeks simply because I knew for those few brief hours I could escape the craziness of life and really get away and have a chance to connect with a new person, learn something new and even have time to just think about everything that had gone on the week prior. Tonight's class allowed me to realize that sometimes even though we shut out the world for fear of being hurt or simply because we are too busy to take a step back and enjoy the life we are being given each day, we must work hard at never taking anything for advantage. We are truly blessed each time we have the chance to connect with another person. I firmly believe we could learn so much from one another if we only gave each other a chance. You never know who you might meet and that maybe, just maybe they can touch your life in a way that will never be forgotten.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Memorial Mausoleum Reflection

This week I really enjoyed touring the memorial mausoleum. It gave me a whole new sense of what a cemetery can look like and it was truly beautiful inside. I loved seeing all the stained glass windows, the different types of marble and the mosaics. My two favorite pieces were the mosaics that showed the path in which life was created and the stained glass window depicting the Virgin Mary surrounded by all the beautiful flowers. Seeing all the urns gave me a very different view of cremation and made it not sound quite as creepy as it once had. I loved the one of the couple dancing and the ones with pictures of those who had passed because it truly gave you a glimpse into their lives when they were living and left you with a pleasant feeling rather than a sad one like some of the older monuments with eerie iconography. As each week passes I am surprised at how much I am able to take away from our experiences and how much I am learning both about the history of our city and about my views of a cemetery, death and the after-life. I have been able to discuss the class with some of my family and friends and teach them a lot of what I have learned. Being in the class has allowed me a chance to learn about history by being among some of the important people of the past generations in a way that a history book could never achieve. I really enjoy listening to my other classmates opinions during our discussions because it allows me to hear everyones views and causes me to reflect on a lot. This class has ironically shed a lot of light on life rather than death as one would assume. Being in cemetery for seven weeks can certainly make you realize that what we have now is life and that if we do not live it to the fullest that can one day it will all end and all that will be left of us is a memorial that may or may not be remembered. So far, I must say this class has impacted me much more than I ever imagined when I first stepped foot into the cemetery on our first class.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Dexter & Walkabout Reflection

This week I really enjoyed the walkabout because I felt we took a tour in many different time eras. It was amazing to go inside the Dexter and see how huge it really was. It was kind of eerie but, very interesting. It was literally like something you would see in a movie. I enjoyed taking a walk through some of the older sections and really taking time to admire the many gravestones and monuments we had not yet seen. It is amazing that even though we have been there for the past several weeks it always feels like we are seeing something new and exciting. There is always something new to learn in each walkabout we partake in. I was happy to learn about Canthus leaves and what they look like because I was stumped as to what they were when I was doing research on Jacob Hoffner's monument. Some of my other favorite parts of the walkabout included seeing the Sphinx and the Pyramid up close. I feel like every week I am able to consider a whole new outlook from the prior week. Another thing that really struck my attention this week was when we were all talking about how most of the cemeteries we visited were not well cared for. It really is rather sad to think that those buried there are no longer cared for and if someone does not take a positive step forward to caring for them, one day they will no longer be there and those buried there may be forgotten forever. It is sad to think we rewrite newer and nicer history books every year and sell them for such insane costs in schools and let those who actually took part in our history blow away in the wind. It struck me when Marcha said that America does not seem to care about hanging on to our history. I have always felt that way. Being that I have been in Italy I was exposed to a whole other world and in Italy they took such pride in caring for their history. Instead of knocking things down and rebuilding something "prettier and newer" they put a great deal of hard work and money into restoring the beauty of the older historic monuments. That is how things should be. I feel everything has become so materialistic in this world that we all forget where we came from and what can be sadder than that. If we do not have a history, a family to look back to, a culture, what do we have other than a bunch of pretty non-meaningful objects? Life and death should both be about more than materials because when we move on to the other life there is nothing for us to take other than our life experiences and it would be great to know that we lived life to the fullest and not just because of what we owned but, who we are and what we did. Hopefully, after living a hard life one can leave this world knowing that they were worth while enough to never just be left to disappear from every one's memories as if they never existed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Reflection on this weeks discussion

This week was nice because instead of investigating monuments and determining what they meant we had a chance to sit back and talk about our views and thoughts on the cemetery. It was neat how we all have seemed to change our original perceptions of the cemetery from our very first discussion. Everyone seemed to have a much deeper outlook due to all we have learned and reflected on thus far. I enjoyed how we all had unique analogies for what a cemetery means to us. I think that my favorite part of this week by far was when we really started getting into a deep discussion about how a cemetery effects us because of our personal past family experiences. I was a little apprehensive to share my family story at first because I do not know everyone very well but, it was a big relief when everyone joined in on the conversation and gave their opinions. It was nice to see how we were all connected in one way or another through or shared experiences and beliefs. For the first time I felt a little more of a connection with my other classmates and I feel we all felt more comfortable opening up to each other this week and sharing our feelings. The discussion this week truly proved to be more than a discussion on the cemetery itself or the people buried there but, it focused more on our views of life and death and the importance of living life to the fullest. I feel we all took one step forward this week and opened our eyes to a much bigger and more important concept.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Westwood Baptist Memorial

Here is a look at my trip to Westwood Baptist Memorial Cemetery

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Westwood Baptist Memorial Cemetary Walkabout

For my walkabout I went to a small cemetery tucked between two buildings on Harrison Avenue in Cheviot (on the westside of town). Even though I had driven past it many times it never really stood out to me because no one ever seemed to be there or pay much attention to it. The fence to get in was caved in and did not open anymore so you literally had to jump the fence to get in. The nicest memorial was a new one placed right in front that had the name Westwood Baptist Memorial written on it. The cemetery is right in the middle of the heart of Cheviot yet, it seems unnoticed by the many busy people who drive and walk by it on a daily basis. It had no more than 35 graves and the majority of them were very small and worn away. The dates ranged in the early to late 1800's and most of the gravestones were simple without much iconography. I was able to see four large memorials with some symbols that I was able to make out such as the rose, a hand of a man and a woman holding each other, a cherub with wings and an urn with a veil draped over it. After doing some research I was able to find out that most of the people buried there were some of the first pioneers to come to Cheviot from many other parts of the country and abroad. The founder of Cheviot was a man by the name of John Craig and his wife Jennet. They founded Cheviot in 1818 and named it after the hills in their homeland of Edinburgh, Scotland. It used to be the biggest cemetery in Cheviot until Harrison Avenue was built right through the center of it causing some of the stones to be lost. Even after the original damage the cemetery was left there however, it was then split into two different cemeteries facing each other. It remained this was until the population grew and the other half of the cemetery was turned into a parking lot and the remains of those who once lied there were reintered and moved to Bridgetown Protestant Cemetery a few blocks down the road. The remains of the Craigs are still located at the original site along with their two sons who both lost their lives at the very young ages of 15 & 17 to a freak lightening accident and their daughter Jennet who was married to a Lewis and died at the young age of 19. It seems both parents outlived all their children as Jennet lived to be 59 and John lived to be 77. When looking through some of the records I found online most of the people buried there could somehow be connected to one another. It was like a puzzle trying to figure out their ties. The grass still seems to be getting cut and it appears that Cheviot itself is responsible for the up keeping however, several of the gravestones had been broken and knocked over yet, left in this manner. While I was there several kids came out and asked if I was taking pictures because I was going to buy the lot. I could not find out any information as to why they thought this but, after researching online it seems that there may be the possibility that the remainder of the original cemetery may also be moved. It is definitely no longer an active cemetery and may soon no longer even remain in it's original location. It was kind of sad to think that the original cemetery in Cheviot may no longer be there anymore and that those who first founded the little town were in a way being moved out. There were no flowers on any graves or anything that gave me the vibe that there were living family members still visiting past generations of their relatives. All in all, I found the experience rather interesting yet sad. It showed me that sometimes no matter how important you once were or the memory you want to leave behind one day, you will still be forgotten. It made me think of the Kansas song "Dust in the Wind" and left me pondering the more philosophical view of death and the after-life. Who do we become when all those who once cared for us are no longer around either? Will we all one day be forgotten?

Reflection on the Tram ride around Spring Grove

This week was probably one of my favorite weeks thus far. I felt like we were able to just relax, take a step back and really take in the view around us. I was amazed at how big the cemetery was and how different each location was from the ones around it. It seemed as if we entered several different worlds throughout our tour. Being able to just sit back gave me the chance to think things through and really collect all my thoughts from the past few weeks. Each section of the cemetery seemed to have it's own essence about it and gave me something new to consider and learn from it. Although I have truly enjoyed seeing the old graves because they leave us with such a mystery in mind, I have to say taking the ride through the new location was really interesting. I feel like having taken this class I really pay more attention to the beauty that can be seen in cemeteries and I find myself pondering questions about the messages being left behind by those who have passed on. I enjoyed seeing the new and beautiful monuments and all the more modern techniques used to symbolize the lives of those who passed away. One of my favorite things was the use of leaving simple messages such as "Gone Fishing". It made me smile thinking about a person I had never met rather than being left with a sad image. I feel like more and more we are trying to leave a "feel good essence" behind rather than a "morbid creepy essence" and I feel that is a great leap for how we are all left to picture the after-life. I also really liked the ride through the woodland area. It was very peaceful and it took you away from the idea that you were in a cemetery. I think it is wonderful that in an industrial society such as this one that they decided to leave a connection to the past untouched for the many generations to experience. It is safe to say that each week I am left to feel more and more comfortable exploring the cemetery. It feels less like a creepy place and more like a story book filled with amazing art and mysteries to be uncovered.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Response to last weeks Tour and Grave Rubbings

I feel like last week was another interesting and informative week. I really enjoyed the tree memorial we were able to see and learn about. I learned so much from the symbols on it, even very surprising things such as squirrels symbolizing Satan. I would have never thought that in a million years. It just shows how much there really is to learn and understand about iconography in cemeteries. I also realized that I am the farthest thing from an artist. I was absolutely awful at the grave rubbings. I think I got more chalk on me than on my paper. Oops! Just another learning experience for me I guess. With each passing week I am able to make connections to all the things I see from the prior week so, it is nice to be able to continue gaining knowledge on the subject. I have found that I am much more interested in this subject than I ever thought I would be. I have even been teaching family and friends. They think I am a little weird but, hey I have always been the kind of person who knows random knowledge!

Spring Grove Cemetery Uncovered

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Uncovering the mysteries behind Jacob Hoffner's Monument

When attempting to decide what monument I wanted to research I had no idea which one to choose. I decided to go back to Spring Grove and drive around until I saw one that stuck out to me. I drove until I realized I was lost (of course I had no map) and that's when I saw the monument that struck my curiosity. It was perched high on top of a mountain. Two lions seemed to looking down the hill guarding the steps leading to the ancient memorial. I started up the hill and when I reached the lions a sign engraved in the giant stone stated Jacob Hoffner Family Lot. Although the name sounded familiar I had no idea who he was but, I was sure curious to find out. I continued on up the steps until I reached a large memorial standing about 30 feet high. Laid at the bottom of the memorial was a book that had a message engraved dedicating the memorial to Jacob Hoffner's wife Elizabeth and children. Around the memorial in the grass were many other headstones of family members who had also passed away. As I walked around gazing at the memorial many things caught my attention. The memorial was very old so, some of the symbols had been worn away and the statue of the lady had not only begun turning black but, had also been broken in many spots. Much to my surprise when I got home and began researching Jacob Hoffner I found out some very interesting information that connected him to close and familiar places such as U.C. and Italy, a country close to my heart because of my heritage. It turns out Jacob Hoffner was a rather mysterious figure, little-known and little remembered. He was born on August 4, 1799 and died on April 8, 1894 at the age of 96 from pneumonia. He was a real estate mogul who was noted for his elaborate gardens and statuarys both inside and outside his home in Cincinnati. During a trip to Italy he visited Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence where he first fell in love with the lions. He requested a smaller version for his own home, which now grace his memorial. After his passing the University of Cincinnati requested to have two of the lions grace their McMicken Hall in 1904. There "Mick & Mack" still stand tall today. The old wives tale is that Mick and Mack will come to life and roar whenever a virgin passes by. Who would have thought! Jacob Hoffner now has a park named after him located at the corner of Blue Rock and Hamilton Avenue as well as a street in Northside, not too far from his burial ground. As I continued to uncover pieces of Mr. Hoffner's life I thought back to memorial and all of the symbols that lined it. I knew they had a story to tell but, I was at a loss as to what a lot of them meant. When I researched the symbols in my Stories in Stone book I discovered a lot of underlying meanings. The lions gracing the stairs leading to the memorial stand for courage, majesty and strength. They also symbolize the resurrection because of the belief that lion cubs were born dead but, came to life after three days when they were breathed on by a male lion. The three days is a connection to the Christian Faith symbolizing the days it took for Christ to resurrect. One of the lions had a very saddened look on his face which could symbolize grief, loss and sadness for the loss of a loved one. This may have ties to his beliefs and religion. Out of the many monuments I saw at Spring Grove high on top of mountains his was the only one that had steps leading up to it. I started thinking of the symbolism to the steps and the first thing that popped in my head was Led Zepplin's song Stairway to Heaven. I wonder if they were put there symbolize his climb into heaven and the idea that angels come down to guide you to paradise. The memorial was topped with seven tall vertices's which I related to the seven virtues. Inside the memorial stood a statue of a woman draped in a long dress in which she held many different types of flowers. She wore a crown that seemed to be made of ivy and flowers and above her was a wreath that seemed to have assorted flowers and nuts hidden in the ivy. Because of the fact that ivy is eternally green even in harsh conditions it symbolizes immortality and fidelity. Since it clings to a support it also shows the idea of friendship, attachment and undying affection. It's three pointed leaves makes it a symbol of the holy trinity as well. The other flowers appeared to be roses, poppies, lillies, pansies, and oak leaves. Each flower has a special meaning. The roses are a symbol of longevity and beauty and are known as the queen of flowers so, maybe they were trying to leave a beautiful message of who they were forever. The poppies are symbolizing sleep and death and the lillies are attributing the idea that one is casting off earthly things to attain spiritual and heavenly qualities. The calla lillies are a possible symbol of the love and devotion shared between Jacob and Elizabeth his wife. The pansy is interesting because of the fact that it is also known as the heartsease because it is shaped like a heart. This connects the idea of remembrance and being able to hear the thoughts of a loved one who has passed away. It gives the essence that one will still be able to be close to a loved one who has passed on. The oak leaf has many different important meanings including strength, endurance, eternity, honor, liberty, hospitality, faith and virtue. The wreath that hangs above the statue of the woman is in the shape of a circle which gives the idea of a circle of life. The statue of the woman has a sad expression on her face which makes us feel as if she is grieving the loss of someone. Although I am uncertain who she is depicting I get the idea that she is a Greek goddess. She seems like a very simple woman with a natural beauty which tells us a little bit about what Hoffner found beautiful in life. Although he was rich he always looked for beauty in the simple things in life such as art and gardens. His memorial definitely gives you the idea of who he was, what he did in life and the things he appreciated. Overall, the monument was very intriguing and really told a story. I am finally learning a deeper meaning of what a cemetery represents and it has really shown me a whole different meaning to not only life but, also the after life.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reflecting Back

Yesterday's class was truly amazing. I felt like not only were a lot of my mystery questions answered but, I was able to open my eyes to a whole new world, a world of those who had passed away but still found ways to teach us about who they were many years after their lives ended. Being on a tour with an actual speaker who was able to give us insight put a whole new spin on why we were actually taking this class and made me feel like I could start seeing the cemetery as a book or story to someones' life and legacy they wanted to leave behind rather than a creepy place with "ghosts". I learned a lot about what all the symbols on the mausoleums and sculptures meant and it really intrigued me to see how much could be said about a person's life in such an artistic and symbolic manner. It really was like breaking a secret code. My two favorite parts of the tour were Fleischmann's "Greek Parthenon" and the stained glass window of the three Moerae who hold the fate of all humans in Greek mythology and the story behind Lt. William Lytle and his family. I was really touched by the monument that stood at his grave. It was so symbolic and very touching to see the many parts that bring together what his life was about, especially the symbolic saddened eagle. I had noticed that monument the first week and it stood out in my mind so, actually learning about it's meaning was really interesting. I started seeing the monuments as more than wonderful works of art but, pieces of someones life being put together. The entire experience truly opened my eyes to looking deeper into what one sees and discovering the true true meaning behind it. To me, a cemetery is no longer just a place to bury a loved one and visit as a sign of respect but, it is a close connection to our history without actually having been there. So far, I have learned that just like you should never judge a book by it's cover, I find that a cemetery is much the same. It's like jumping into one of the best history books and going back in time. It is not just a place of sorrow but, a place of remembrance, beauty, knowledge and a way to unlock some of life's most amazing mysteries. I am no longer questioning the small things but, finally starting to see the bigger picture. This class has really brought about a curiosity and passion in me that I never thought I had. I look forward to learning more in the weeks to come!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Cemetary Honors Paper

Cemetery…A resting burial ground, a sacred and religious location or a dark and gloomy fearful spot
When I think about what a cemetery means to me and how I feel about it, several different things come to mind. Growing up I was always taught to pay my respects by doing the sign of the cross each time I passed a graveyard because of my Italian culture and religion but, I must admit it was a scary and eerie place for me and it was always something I had trouble understanding. The thought that “dead people” lay beneath the ground was a mystery to me and I was terrified by it. I remember thinking and feeling how awful it must be for the people in the coffins. I was very naive to the fact that only their body lies there but, that their soul had moved on. Every time I went to visit someone at the cemetery with my family I knew I had to be quiet and respectful and that it was a place of mourning and private intimate moments for family and friends of those who had passed on. Today, I carry much of the same feelings as far as respect and privacy go. Every time I drive into a cemetery I make sure to have my radio turned down, drive slowly through and not make a mockery of those buried there by laughing, speaking loudly or showing other signs of disrespect. Sadly, many times I watch people act out in cemeteries and I wonder how one could act in such a manner in such an important place. When I was younger and I started hearing of people having weddings and picnics in cemeteries I felt very disturbed by the idea. As I have grown older and my perspectives have matured and changed I have started seeing cemeteries in a different light. Although my views on respect have never changed, I have started seeing it as less of a dark, gloomy place where only sadness occurs and more of a place where resurrection and happiness can begin. Although I have always felt that once a loved one has passed on you can talk to them anywhere, being near their place of burial makes sense to me now-a-days. I have started seeing it as a way to be closer to them in a sense, and a way to still feel as if they are part of the life still going on around you. I feel the way we are raised and the experiences we have through our lives ultimately mold the opinions we have on everything, including how we feel and perceive cemeteries. Today, I am able to feel a sense of comfort each time I visit a family member. Being in the cemetery now-a-days can be so peaceful and sometimes it even allows me to escape the stress of everyday life and take a deep breath to realize the important things and throw away the petty life obstacles. I am inspired to feel closer to not only my loved ones but, to God as well and no feeling is more powerful than to know your loved ones are now in the hands of such a loving an amazing God. Although, at times I still catch myself feeling uncertain of my feelings when I am in a cemetery alone, especially at night, I now realize this as being part of a normal human response and I try to take a step back and not think of the material idea behind a cemetery but rather the spiritual and emotional connection that I can experience each time I visit a loved one. Being able to walk into a cemetery without the eerie fears has allowed me to feel much more at ease and given me the chance to remember my loved ones in a way where they can be honored and know they will never be forgotten and nothing could make me feel more grateful than that.

Our Pictures and questions from our 1st walkaround

1. Is there any meaning to the Ivy growing in patterns on the ground?

2. Why are so many monuments in the same shape (the tall and pointed tops)? What does this symbolize?

3. Why are the doors to the house-like monuments with many family members bolted and locked shut even though the doors are ones unable to be opened?

4. What does the G symbol with two arrows around it mean?

5. Who were the Harrison's, there are so many of them buried together?

6. What does the wooden arch mean?

7. There was a double stacked coffin burial stone. Why was this made this way? Was it redone because it had worn away or because another person was buried there?

8. Is it disrespectful to sit on the bench-type monuments?

9. Who was Ottomar Topff? Is this his picture?

10. What are the wooden planks on the ground and what do they mean?

11. Why are there such grand monuments for some people? Were they famous or rich if they had large memorials?

12. What does this burial mean? Is this supposed to symbolize a doorway to somewhere?

13. What is the meaning behind the art on the Leon Van Loo monument?

14. What does F.G. Fore mean? Why was it on several graves?

15. Why do some graves only have initials, or first names or titles written on them such as Mamma without other defining characteristics in order to know who was buried there?

16. What do the leaves on house-like monument mean? Are they symbolic to the family or do they have some general special meaning?

17. Do the angels on some of the graves symbolize what the person may have done in their lives? Some are of guardian angels and some are of warrior angels?

18. Are the bodies of those in the house-like monuments buried in the walls of the structure?

19. What does perpetual care mean? It was on several burial sites?

20. What does the symbol that looks like the star of David mean when it has the letters O, E, and S next to it?

21. Are the leaves around the tree stump monuments just for beauty or do they represent something more?

22. Who was Samuel Davis Jr.?

23. Who was Daniel Drake?

24. Were all the Drakes who were buried together family?

25. Who is Charles Davis?

26. What does the little lamb on graves mean? Does this mean a child is buried here?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our First Adventure at Spring Grove Cemetery

During my first adventure at Spring Grove I was able to pair up with a long time friend from Nursing school so, I was pretty excited. I must say when we set out to our destination I had no idea what to expect and I was a little unsure how to feel about it. My great grandparents are buried in one of the Mausoleum's at Spring Grove and I knew it was a beautiful cemetery but, I really had not taken the time to walk around and look at other memorials and burial stones. Kelly and I were able to see all kinds of different stones and really take the time to analyze each one we came across. There were several really important people we had set out to find and it was exciting when we finally found them to read about them and realize we were standing where someone great had been buried. We came across The Harrison's, The Drake's and the McGuffey's. I later researched some very interesting stories about these families. I found out about Dr. Drake who had made a huge impact on our city becoming a well known physician and writer who even founded the Medical College of Ohio and Alexander McGuffey who had been a co-writer of the McGuffey readers, some of the best known educational school books in American History during the 19th century.We came across some very interesting designs on the stones, some of which we only saw once and some of which we saw many times over. It was the very first time I had walked around and taken the time to not only look at other's burial stones but, actually take the time to wonder why things were the way they were. We spent time looking at the big memorials where entire families were buried inside and it gave us an almost eerie feeling to look inside the cold tombs and see the many names written inside. It was amazing to me to see all the stones and how they were literally in every nook and cranny. The majority of them seemed as if they had been kept up but, others were almost lost under the overgrown grass and dirt. At times I felt at peace looking through all the beautiful stones and other times I had a cold shiver come over me. It was certainly a very interesting experience and one I am grateful for because it started me on a journey to looking further into what a cemetery is all about and not just the scary appeal we grew up believing in.