Over the weekend, my wife and I got out of Houston and headed west to a golf resort in New Ulm, Texas. It's about an hour from our house but feels farther. After two days of the course kicking our rears up one side of the greens to the next, we took a drive. It's your typical northern gulf coast area: lots of open space, barbed wired fences, and cows. This is Texas, you know. You've also got low, rolling hills, something you don't have in Houston.
We stopped at an old cemetery in Frelsburg, Texas. For those of y'all that don't know, central Texas is the place many German and Czech immigrants settled in the early to mid 1800s. You can see it in the town names (Frelsburg, Schulenburg) or things like the Spoetzl Brewery, the home of Shiner beer, just about the best thing to drink on a hot Austin night when your a student at The University of Texas.
I enjoy visiting old cemeteries and looking at the names and birth/death dates. My historian self quickly gravitates to the military men and women. I like to discover if the soldiers lived through their war or if they survived and lived a long life knowing that they did their part. What surprised me in this little cemetery was the grave of a young man who died in Iraq but who was also in the Pentagon on 9/11.
Another thing that is never surprising in old cemeteries are the grave markers of children. There were more than a dozen graves of children who didn't live out a year, some of whom lived a day or two. One precious child didn't even live out the day. I got to wondering about how difficult live was for nineteenth century folks, whether or not they were immigrants. As a father, these things get to me. As bad as it can be in 2009, we have it so, so easy compared to them.
What struck me as incredible was the grave marker of a person who was born in 1793. Think about it: when he was born, George Washington was alive and president. George Washington! And to think that this man immigrated from Europe to Texas and died here but not before fathering children who went on to make more children, all the way up to the present day. It provided a real connection with the past.
Just wanted to share some thoughts about our history and our connections with all that came before us. We are not islands. We are all part of this earth and humankind. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that, what with our souped up cars, headphones, and alarm-systemed houses, all things that block out life and other people. Sometimes it takes a visit to the past via a cemetery to help us all remember where we all come from.