Friday, July 1, 2011

She made home happy

Tourism is everywhere...
No reservation to make so let’s go right now.
Come alone or invite a friend (this date won’t break your budget!)
I will take you to my hometown cemetery: Beatrice [NE] Evergreen Cemetery. First I can see your surprise, then later your disappointment. I understand but bear with me. I will take you to new lands...
To enjoy Beatrice Evergreen Cemetery at its best, choose the right time of the day either dawn or dusk. I recommend dawn. Get up before the sun and go out for a stroll. The ambiance is peaceful; the cottony morning fog will transport you to dreamy lands.
Many dead surround you but why be afraid? They are resting in peace after a busy, challenging life and now they lay soaking up the tranquil rising sun. No more fussing and buzzing for them. They bathe in the quietude of the land. They have learned how to relax. Listen to them and they will teach you how to reject the superficialities of life. 
Read their tombstones. Many died younger than you are today, many have buried their loved ones and some have been tragically distraught by the lost of a child. You can relate to these hardships of life but now, unlike you, in their final resting place, they are free of them. You did not reach your last destination yet and you wonder what lies ahead of you: you can predict that good and bad will come. So, now, at this moment, grab the best of it. Carpe Diem, as they said, in the Roman days. 
You feel completely alive; all your senses are stimulated: The gentle breeze caresses your face. You are amazed at the subtle pastels of the sky, at the trills of the birds. The woodpeckers call your attention by knocking incessantly on the trunks. The squirrels run from to tomb to tomb: do they pay a morning visit to their residents? Witnessing all this activity, you realize that you are not in a place of dead people. Life was, is and will be here for a long time.
 
Now, I want to introduce you to Catherine Ahlquist. She stands tall at the cemetery entrance, always waiting for the visitors. She is a good hostess, and treats all with a smile. She left this earth more than one hundred years ago but her epitaph keeps her alive. She married Hugo and left this earth too early, only at the age of thirty. Hugo missed her so much; their five years of marriage brought him so many joys. In his sorrow, he chose this beautiful statue, a lady with a serene and loving face, dressed in a flowing classic gown. Her slender and straight silhouette bears her pride. She liked to do things right, she thrived to be the perfect hostess, helping her husband in his business. She practiced the Victorian virtues of the time: thrifty but generous, elegant but not outlandish, social but not gossipy. Always busy, idleness could bring waste. Her needlepoint, china painting proved she was an accomplished artist. Being the wife of a young and successful banker she learned quickly how to entertain with class.  Hugo was always proud to invite his colleagues to a Sunday dinner. They had a lot in common. Although Hugo was born in Sweden and she was born in Beatrice, Gage County, they had a lot in common. After all, Catherine’s parents also were born in Europe.

Read her epitaph and let your imagination takes over. You will then discover even more about Catherine. 
In loving memory of Catherine M. Ahlquist
Nee Elerbeck, wife of Hugo W. Ahlquist.
April 17 1879-December 31 1909.
She made home happy
Within the hearts of those she loved
Rests the memory of her sweet and gentle life.
Did you notice the date of her death? How sad! The neighbors were celebrating the coming of the New Year, Hugo could hear their laughs and the jolly music, and he was sitting at her side, holding her hand, slowly stiffening, slowly turning cold, then becoming smooth but frigid marble.  Hugo had tried to hope despite the doctor’s verdict, had prayed for a miracle, but no, it was over... Catherine had left him forever.  
Catherine and Hugo’s whole story could seem erased by the years but you have the power to add in the missing puzzle pieces according to your liking. Build a beautiful story, emphasize the pleasant moments they lived together, share their prides and joys. Although life was short for Catherine, we will remember her as it is carved her epitaph: a loving and gentle woman.

Will you deserve such an epitaph? Or do you prefer to have some other accomplishments listed on your tombstone? About me, I would be delighted to leave such a legacy. Who knows? I certainly tried to be nice to all...

by Bernadette Korslund

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