Especially now that the trees are blooming, Vine Lake Cemetery is particularly pretty.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
According to a 2016 Time Magazine article, more Americans are now opting to be cremated than buried after they pass away. This may not seem like a big deal to younger people, but it is actually a monumental difference in how people’s deaths are treated. Keep in mind that in 1980, the cremation rate in the United States was less than ten percent.
While there are many reasons for this, ranging from price and environmental concerns to a wider array of things you can do with one's ashes, the bottom line is that ironically, in the future, cemeteries may become a thing of the past. Until that time, though, Vine Lake Cemetery remains an especially beautiful resting place.
The first thing I noticed when I headed there was just how active it was. The pond in the middle had both a family and a group of high school kids fishing on it, with the family using nightcrawlers and the high school kids opting for lures and jigs. The family using nightcrawlers hauled in a sunfish pretty quickly, despite their small daughter using an adorable, but not very functional, children’s toy of a rod.
Heading towards the Civil War memorial, I ran into a couple walking, with their child just ahead of them on a bicycle. For a kid riding a bike, the cemetery was a perfect place. There were essentially no cars, the pavement was smooth, and there were no real hills of consequence.
While it may seem odd to have so much life inside of a cemetery, this is how it should be. Why have an entire chunk of green space dedicated only to mourning, when you could simultaneously celebrate life while you’re there? And, before you claim it’s a sign of the times or a shift in function, the cemetery’s own website says that in 1736, the town allowed animals to graze on the burial ground (although this was disallowed in 1808).
Vine Lake Cemetery is also a unique mix of new and old. Just looking at the graves, it’s easy to see that the old style of carved animals and religious imagery has given way to actual images of things from people’s lives. So, while the cemetery website has a page explaining that something like a carved sleeping lamb represents a child’s death or that broken cattails represent a humble life of obedience cut short, modern graves are decorated with much clearer images. If someone loved the beach, for example, an image of a beach the deceased loved might adorn their stone. If they loved their boat, there might be an image of their boat. Sometimes, there’s an image of the deceased themselves.
The cemetery also has an app that offers digital walking tours, and a website that extensively covers some of its mysteries (though many revolve around slavery, so in some ways, it is a bit less uplifting than it sounds). Still, there are some quirky stories about grave robbing and mysterious stones that are worth a deep dive.
Vine Lake Cemetery offers a unique combination of history and active life for anyone willing to check it out.