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  • Writer's pictureBetty Girardeau


Three years ago today I took my camera and visited the Knoxville National Cemetery where, in a couple more weeks my husband's ashes would to be buried. I had been there once before when my husband and I had spent a Sunday afternoon visiting Knoxville's Old Grey Cemetery, which is adjacent to the the National one. Old Grey is a typical Victorian era "garden type" burial ground with many large and imposing monuments as well as more basic ones honoring the dead. Next door there is simplicity, with rows of identical white headstones, honoring each soldier equally, regardless of rank. My husband's family roots dig deep into Southern soil, so when we had discussed where we might want to buried, he suggested the Knoxville National Cemetery, with his tongue in his cheek. You see, this cemetery was ordered to be established in 1863 by "Yankee" General Burnside and was one of the first Union ones in the south. My husband saw humor in being a Son of the South resting finally amongst some of those who might have once been considered the enemy. I don't see it that way. I think there is something right and proper in this. Death is the common denominator. Enemies no longer exist. Military burial grounds throughout the world are usually beautifully maintained and I have found, along with the sadness, a sense of peace in these places. This year as we deal with an untamed virus, we will not have the usual parades and big celebrations to honor our soldiers and their families. But you can go visit a cemetery where social distancing will likely be quite easy. You might also be able to find a peaceful haven for a while in a world which right now seems chaotic and unfamiliar. That's what I am going to do.

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