“Welcome! What a drearily wonderful day to spend in a cemetery, wouldn’t you say?”
And that’s how I began the presentation for the cemetery walk my daughter, Rosalia, and I participated in at the Clinton Grove Cemetery located in Clinton Township, Michigan. One of five stops along the tour, we portrayed father and daughter Adolph and Mildred Gutschow and, because I have never seen a child portray a deceased child at a cemetery walk before, we were quite the hit! People were very touched to watch and listen to Rosalia as Mildred stand by 'her' tombstone and speak in 1st person as the young girl who died in 1910 at the age of 11 of a stomach ailment. I then would let each group know just how tough it was for a parent to lose a child, but not before stating that I hoped that no one in my presence had ever had to bare such a loss. One older woman, after one of our 17 (!) presentations had ended, came up to me, grabbed my hand, and said, "I just wanted to tell you that I have lost a child and you are so right that it's the hardest thing for a parent to go through. You and your daughter did a wonderful job showing that. Thank you." It nearly brought me to tears.
But, it wasn't all sad...we tried to have a little lightness as well, like when 'Mildred' spoke of her annoying brothers, or when one time early on she forgot one of her lines. After a brief moment in thought, Rosalia - as Mildred - told the group, “Hey! I’ve been lying in this cemetery for a long time! I'm allowed to forget!” The people roared!
As Adolph, I was a clothing store owner, and I made sure to make a comment to the women in the audience by stating that they needed to come to my business to get a proper dress instead of wearing their husband's britches!"
Again, lots of laughs.
One of the neatest things happened when a few of the descendants of the Gutschows were in one of the tour groups and they told us how good a job we did and thanked us for allowing them to "see" their ancestors.
It's also kind of interesting in the way people come up to you and speak to you as if you are/were the person buried come to life.
I have been doing cemetery walks now for eight years at a couple different cemeteries in the area. In fact, I will be doing another toward the end of this month. It really is a great way to help people understand their local history as well as showing honor to those that have been long deceased, and in some cases may have been forgotten.