September 7, 2008

Delivering stones to George and George (Magnus)

Uncle David took Dave and I to visit the cemeteries where George Tanner and Magus Tolstrup are buried so that I could put my stones on their graves. Aunt Barbara came along.
We went first to Everett Cemetery to find the grave of George Tanner and looked up and down several rows before Dave suddenly came upon it. I'd brought along my stone from Maeve's Mound and had meant to justlay it on the top of the grave, but both Uncle David and Dave had suggested that if I simply left the stone on the grave, the maintenance staff would likely remove it. So, I buried it instead (along with a little piece of quartz) then whispered a wish that the stone might help George and all his descendants find connection to his Ancestral Irish homeland. Though I'd forgotten, my parents are also buried at Everett Cemetery, so we visited their grave, as well. Their grave felt oddly disconnected to me: we'd buried their ashes together after my father's death as a way to console my grandmother Tolstrup. Their choices - to be cremated and their ashes dispersed - without a wake and without a gravesite had left Nana without the comfort of the death rituals she'd always known. There was no place to go to for quiet contemplation and grief; no where to place wreaths and flowers. When Dad died, Uncle David asked me if we could bury the ashes in a plot at the cemetery so that Nana could gain some semblance of a sense of closure. Knowing that my parents never meant their funeral arrangements to cause my grandmother any distress, we agreed. Nana's gone now, though and standing at their grave, I wondered if my parents might now want me to disinter their ashes and dispose of them as they'd originally wished. There could be no compelling reason to keep them here: not only did their consignment to this place contradict their desires, but the places themselves and the rituals of burial here felt sanitised and abstract compared to what I felt at Loughcrew and Bear River. There is, it seems, a difference between burial grounds and sacred spaces; funerals and ancestor ceremony. We continued on to Forrestdale Cemetery and quickly found Magnus Tolstrup's grave. We had a moment of laughter when I read the inscription: George Tolstrup. Uncle David had continually been telling me that his grandfather was George, not Magnus, and indeed Magnus himself had called himself by his middle name, George from the time he came to America. (He's still Magnus to me). Buried with him was his wife - my great-great grandmother, Louise (Moller). I began to dig a little hole for the stone I'd brought from Norway and it suddenly dawned on Uncle David what I was doing. Uncle David is an old rock-hound (and gemologist) from way back and I'd already shown him the Rekkevik rock (because it is unusual) and also that I had picked it up at the ancestral Tolstrup farm. As I was burying it, Uncle David asked, “Is that the stone from Norway?” I answered that it was and that I was buring it there as a way to connect Magnus back to his homeland. To which he smiled and said, “That’s good.” With it, I also buried a piece of quartz and whispered a wish for Magnus' easy passage to his ancestral homeland.

While still at Forrestdale, we also visited the graves of (me greatly beloved) Nana and Grampa TolstrupNana Adams (and Aunt Laura)
Grampa Adams and Great-grandmother Ruggles. For each of them, I left pieces of quartz.Like Everett, Forrestdale Cemetery - while more peaceful, and certainly more beautiful - is an oddly empty place: unlike the cairns I’d visited in Ireland, there’s no sense here that death relates to life; there's no sense of continuity; no magic.

I would, however like to express my deep appreciate for the efforts made by my Uncle David, Aunt Barbara and cousin Dave to help me complete this piece of my task. Thank you. I love you all.


Katie and Emir said...

Looking at these photos and reading the's very different from the rest of your experiences, isn't it? I really get what you's very static somehow, like the sense of living a life in place and time is missing. There's no vibrancy it's commodified somehow by a headstone and 2x4 patch of dirt that you buy and plop someone in and then everything stops.

ibu kate said...

It's funny because there is a song I've been listening to lately and wish that I had now added it to the playlist I made for you. But then when I think about it, you may already as it is on the Kev Carmody (covers version) CD that Sharon gave to you. It's the song "Eulogy for a Black Man", sung by the Broome band the Pigrim Brothers.
If so, then I'm sure the words have been felt by you too...

I was hoping to post it to your blog but it looks like that can't be done on Blogger.

21st Century Pilgrim's Progress said...

send them to me in an email and I'll post them.