Shanna Riley April 3rd, 2007
Stumbling upon the markers of two family members this past weekend was a fruitful and exciting find. Yet it also brings to bear my "story behind every marker" concept.
The graves of James Doherty and Victoria Deauville Doherty sit still and unassuming in this small town cemetery that sees few visitors. They are simple markers; nothing about them would occasion more than a mere passing glance.
Yet they, like each headstone we walk by, has a story to tell.
Not even knowing Jim and Vic, as they were known in life, you can ascertain a few things about them and their lives from simply taking a moment to take in their final resting place.
Their tombstones sit beside one another, and their birth years are very close; Victoria has a maiden name etched into her headstone. It's a fair assumption, then, to allege these two were husband and wife. "Father" and "Mother" are also carved into the gray stone, so one can surmise that they had at least one child.
Both have been dead for over thirty years, and the bouquet of flowers between their graves is faded and bedraggled with age. It is likely, then, that their graves have not been visited for some time.
As you can see, even without knowing the truth about the person whose grave you are standing above, a few moments of simple reflection can offer much information.
In fact, our assumptions about the Dohertys would have been spot on. Jim and Vic were, indeed, a married couple who raised four children together. Most of those children are now in their 70s or have died; there were few grandchildren. It has likely been a very long time since these graves were visited and the flowers we see here were left.
Sometimes a name or a set of names will pique your curiosity for a seemingly unknown reason. You take down the names and dates you see before you, and set out on a quest to find out who and what these people were about while they were still alive. This was the case with myself and The Brandon Children.
Research into the Dohertys might have returned little helpful information or a lot. It may have connected you to a living family member eager to talk about their beloved deceased family or you may have come up with nothing and the grave remained a mystery.
In this way, regardless of the eventual outcome however, someone was remembered; either by facts found about them or by the imaginings in someone's mind of who they might have been. This is especially poignant for very old graves that have not likely not been visited, nor their occupants considered, in many long years.
There is a story behind the names and dates carved in stone before you - whether it be factual events of the person's former life, or the fictional invention your mind concocted as you contemplated the grave. For the creative dreamer, a cemetery can be the ultimate muse.
Speaking of stories, let us get back to our original protagonists. Here is a story about Jim and Vic Doherty: They began their life together as star-crossed lovers. Victoria's stepfather, who had raised her, did not approve of the young Doherty boy and refused to let her marry him. In defiance - and obviously in love - Jim and Vic ran off together.
Victoria's stepfather found them living in a tent on the side of the levee near Shreveport, Louisiana. He brought them home and the wedding was arranged. It's likely by that time Vic was pregnant. For whatever reason, the marriage was allowed to take place, and Jim and Vic lived a long, happy life together.
These were people who lived and breathed - who lived lives and still have stories to tell. Stop by a grave next time you find yourself in a cemetery and take a few moments to see what it's telling you. You might just uncover, or create, an amazing story.