As I write this, I am sitting on Marie H and Ralph E. Gray. They have been dead for some time.
Marie was born in 1890 and passed away in 1964. Ralph was born in 1884, and slipped his mortal coil in 1956. I hope they do not mind that I tap out these words while what is left of them lies some six feet below me
As I often tell people, my writing instrument of choice is what I call a microtop. It consists of a Bluetooth keyboard and an iPhone, which rests on a stand. I make use of a writing program called Scrivener that allows me to sync everything quickly between this portable setup and my computer at home, so that I can edit what I’ve written.
I enjoy being portable. With this setup there are many times in which I’ve taken out my keyboard and tapped out many, many words. End tables become makeshift desks, and a doctor’s waiting room becomes my office.
This is, however, the first time that I have used a gravestone as a writing surface.
I was walking past Beverly Central Cemetery, and I thought to myself “you know, I’ve never written in a cemetery before.” So I walked around, and looked for a flat stone that I could use to type out this blog entry. Marie and Ralph Gray fit the bill.
There is an impressive tombstone just to my right commemorating the life of William Gray, who I guess is the patriarch of these folks. Ralph and Marie have their separate resting place where I’m sitting at the moment, but William, his wife Lizzie, and their sons (I would presume) Ernest and Irving are here too.
William apparently had a tough time of it. Though his wife was ten years younger than him, she died first, in 1910, at age 50. William lived on for another fifteen years before passing away at 75.
His children did not live long. Ernest died at 24, in 1906, and Irving’s dates say, ominously, “1880-1880.”
So it would seem as if Ralph, presumably the youngest son, born in 1884, at least gave William some happiness. He is the only one of the Gray sons that William didn’t have to bury, and I’m guessing that, considering that his wife Marie is here with him on this separate tombstone, that they were married for quite some time.
There are some other names on the other side of the tombstone. Elmer, Mary. Ellen. There are also two names below these on the other side of the tombstone with the surname Kelly. One of them is William Kelly, who was born in 1903 and died in 1906. A few feet away is a small grave marker that says “Willie.”
There’s a lot of hard luck at this gravesite.
And this is probably the first time, in a long time, that anyone has given a lot of thought to the Grays. The latest date on any of the tombstones is Marie's, which is 53 years ago.
It does make me think. Granted, nothing that I’m thinking about at the moment is anything that others have not thought about before (and that others have not written about with far more elegant words), but this is the first time in my life that I’ve really just sat in a graveyard and thought. About life. And about death.
Is there anyone around, I wonder, who remembers any of these people? Probably not. They have an impressive gravesite, and perhaps I can find out a bit about them if I go to The Beverly Historical Society, but odds are that they weren’t that important. They don’t have a big grave marker or anything. They were just folks.
Joseph B. Appleton, to my left, has an impressive gravesite. The tombstone with his name and his family members on it is several feet tall. Yet the latest date on it 1929. When, I wonder, was the last time someone visited the Appleton grave?
There are a couple of people here who warrant a mention in Beverly’s history. There’s Bessie Baker, who has a playground named after her, and a whole lot of Lovetts, who figured prominently in Beverly’s history, I think.
Now they ate all gone. I hope that as their remaining breaths dwindled down to the single digits that they were able to look back on the good moments in the time that they had.
Shortly before Warren Zevon’s death from terminal cancer, he appeared on David Letterman, and Letterman asked him if he had a valediction.
“Enjoy every sandwich,” Zevon said.