Why Tending Graves Is Important

Picture of elmwood cemetery entrance

Entrance to Elmwood Cemetery

This story reported in a Memphis paper called The Commercial Appeal is inspiring and it makes me proud to be a gravetender.

The story reports:

“Last week, a flat, four-sided headstone was all that marked the graves of the “Memphis Martyrs,” a quartet of Episcopalian Sisters known for their uncompromising care of yellow fever victims during the height of an epidemic here in the mid-1870s. 

Elmwood Cemetery volunteer Mark Henderson unearthed a cross-shaped pattern of white limestone slabs 51/2  feet long last week while tending to the grounds. They surround Sisters Constance, Thecla, Ruth and Frances, who were buried head-to-head  after succumbing to the disease only weeks apart in 1878.

Henderson, a Memphis police officer and parishioner at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, said the limestone around the sisters’ graves had sunk 8 inches over more than 100 years. He dug for two days and reassembled on the third.

“I had to figure it out like a puzzle,” said Henderson, 49. “But it all seems to fit.”

Henderson, a bagpipe player  who frequently serenades Elmwood visitors, took courses in grave tending in Knoxville and has started his own grave-care services company. He cleaned and repaired the limestone and placed black mulch underneath to make the cross pop. 

“Mark has made this place more beautiful with his work,” said Kimberly McCollum, executive director at Elmwood.” 

Thanks to Mark Henderson’s work, the story of the sisters’ sacrifice is no longer forgotten. This is why tending graves and maintaining cemeteries is important – there is so much history in local cemeteries that it’s a shame so many graveyards fall into ruin and disrepair. Let us not lose this vital link to our past and to our ancestors.

When was the last time you went to a cemetery?

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