Jones Chapel Cemetery. I’ve driven by it a thousand times; it’s nestled quietly into the wooded hillside of Cedar Bluff, Virginia. I took my camera and an entire Saturday afternoon to be with the sleeping residents of this community, which is undoubtedly a relique in its own right.
Most of the people buried here have been dead for 100 years or more. Their tombstones are weathered, some of them beyond legibility. The graves are sunken, the stones are leaning. Many of them have succumbed to their own weight and decades of weather and have fallen over completely. I realized that the gravesites were not adorned with the flowers left by friends, loves, and family because they, too, are dead.
Normally, I do not find cemeteries enthralling or even worthy of a visit. After all, the people sleeping there aren’t really there at all, are they? The residents of Jones Chapel Cemetery are different, however. They’ve been sleeping for more than ten decades, and yet their voices still linger beneath the canopies of cedars that watches over them. I saw the resting places of civil war soldiers, many children and babies who died from the black plague of the early 1900s. I even met a man who died on his birthday.
Although quiet and obviously peaceful, these sleepers had voices that lingered despite the years between their deaths and my presence. I wondered what their voices were saying. I know their stories would have been enthralling and worth writing down. If only I could have heard them. All I took was photographs, as I usually do. They are all I have to show for an afternoon stroll amidst stone…and bone.
© Anna Christine Wess, 2002