SETTING THE STAGE FOR A STORY: First, you must put on your Norman Rockwell glasses to return to a time of innocence, of patriotism, where a boy and girl sit at the soda fountain drinking from two straws, a sleeping boy is nestled with his dog beside him, of the family gathered around the Thanksgiving table. The Post Magazine covers captured a time and a place through Rockwell’s artistry that seems long ago and far away. While looking at William Manley’s photographs of the restoration of Unity Cemetery, it took me back to a story I once listened to while sitting in the woods around the campfire, and shooting sparks disappeared into the darkness above us. The circle of faces around the campfire glowed in the light of the fire.
The YMCA played a big part in my life. The girl’s department and staff helped form who we became. After ditching a meeting I was to attend with the director of the Women and girl’s department, in favor of fries, a cherry coke, and friends, down at Cooley’s Cubbard, I was called on the carpet. It was explained that as one of the leaders in my class, things were expected. I was told, “to those much is given, much is expected.” I have never forgotten this admonition from a significant authority figure in my life that I loved and did not want to disappoint. I would be a different person were I growing up today. Correcting behavior and offering a moral compass to a young person isn’t allowed.
The Y had a two-week girls camp every August that I first attended after 4th grade. My last year at Camp Echo in Fremont, Michigan was the summer after I married. I was the Assistant camp director to Zenol Moore, who explained what was expected of me. I saw the Borealis for the first time at camp. Waking everyone, the camp girls brought out their sleeping bags and on our backs, we watched the flickering colors and movement. Another summer, a group of girls, flashlight in hand, made their way into the woods to the campfire site and listened to a story. Zenol was the storyteller. The younger girl’s eyes were becoming heavy after a full day. In the firelight, Zenol told about a village church where one by one the villagers came, lanterns swaying. The light from the individual lanterns began to fill the church. Even one missing light was noticeable. Do those girls remember the ‘moral of the story?’ How important each of us is, bringing light to the world. The girl that remains within me, remembers the shinny faces, the singing, the smell of the woods, the silhouette of the trees around us, and the story.
On February 6th, 2021, many volunteers came to Unity Cemetery, spreading out across the sections they worked on, I believe they also brought their light-filled hearts. UNITY is what they are about and their unity is the flame we can light our candles from.
This is written for the Unity Cemetery Volunteers with respect and admiration for the light they bring. (SFH)