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A visit to a country cemetery

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

If you hop on your bike and peddle a few miles, you may find a country cemetery nearby that needs a visit. The one I found was on the grounds of an old church, unpainted for decades and long ago closed. The saints have scattered, but they haven't forgotten or neglected their cemetery.

The gate was open, so I considered that an invitation. I was a stranger, but I felt welcome as long as I walked and talked softly and respectfully. This was, after all, sacred ground.

It was a perfect mid-June summer day: warm, clear, a light breeze wafting gently through with mourning doves cooing their mourning song in the nearby trees.

One of the first monuments stopped me in my tracks. The stone had a picture of a 5-year old boy — freckles and blue eyes. I knew this was a place of deep grief and tears. This boy was somebody's son, brother, grandson and neighbor next door. This was where the question "why?" was asked many times.

One family name appeared on stone after stone. Three or four generations of people had to be the pioneers in this community. I had the feeling that within a mile of where I stood, there were more people of the same name — grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original homesteaders.

I was impressed by the obvious care given to this plot and by the metal plaques commemorating men and women who had served in the armed forces. Some of those remembered veterans were way back from World War I. Once again, gratitude expressed was "thank you for your service."

Little cemeteries all across the land of the free and home of the brave have these plaques. I trust that on Memorial Day, just two weeks earlier, all the brave were remembered and honored. It was 74 years ago in June that the bold allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in Northern France in World War II for the final push toward Berlin. Approximately 6,603 Americans died in that invasion. Many are buried in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer in France on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.

Yes, I saw the resting places of a few people I had known, two I had worked with and the designated resting place of one person I know, but not yet at rest. Good people. As a matter of fact, we now assume that the folks, every one of them, buried there were good people. All were loved and respected by someone. That ought to be the attitude of every visitor — love and respect.

I am reminded of the last verse of the Irish classic "Oh Danny Boy," inviting a dear friend to come visit my grave after I've died:

"Go out and find the place where I am lying . . .

And I shall hear, though soft your tread above me

And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be

If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me

I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me."

Walk through a cemetery the next chance you get. And if you want to prepare your mood for the visit, I suggest you listen to "Oh Danny Boy" before you go.