Death is a part of life. And there are a lot of important parts of life that we neglect.
Cemeteries, for example.
Not many of us visit cemeteries very often, but when we do, we expect a certain reverent tidiness – especially when you’re paying a visit to a departed loved one.
So you can imagine Mattie Mitchell’s surprise when she recently paid a visit to her grandparents’ graves in Augusta’s Cedar Grove Cemetery and found a dumped pile of dirt, about 6 feet high and 15 feet long, obscuring one grave and possibly more.
“These are somebody’s people,” Mitchell told The Chronicle. “They were buried twice. That’s not right.”
A fallen tree takes up another sizable portion of the cemetery’s south side.
The cemetery dates to 1820. Its oldest marked grave – broken but propped to a standing position – dates to 1835. Walking through Cedar Grove is a stroll through Augusta’s rich African-American history. The Rev. William J. White, founder of the forerunner of Morehouse College, is buried there. Famed educators T.W. Josey and A.R. Johnson are buried there. So are brothers R.A. Dent and B.L. Dent, who became the first black Augustans since Reconstruction to serve, respectively, in the Georgia General Assembly and on the Augusta City Council.
Many family members have paid for “perpetual care” of gravesites, and according to a state law that’s been on the books since 2000, that means perpetual care extends to the whole cemetery, which is tended by the city.
When a local government is responsible for every pothole, every fallen tree branch and every container of trash – and since those responsibilities are overseen and executed by human beings – peak efficiency 365 days a year is an impossibility. We understand that.
But what a shame that a part of Cedar Grove had to descend into a shabby state. Let’s hope the city acts quickly.
We’ve known Ms. Mitchell from a few years back as a concerned citizen who can get things done. She was responsible in 2004 for helping get a sheriff’s substation in her Bethlehem neighborhood. Cedar Grove couldn’t have a more devoted advocate.
However, perpetual care doesn’t necessarily have to mean perpetual government funding.
Why not look into cemetery cleanups as excellent service projects for civic clubs, youth organizations or even just small, concerned groups of neighbors?
And look at Cottage Grove Cemetery, off Marvin Griffin Road. It’s a 200-year-old private cemetery that has fallen victim to vandalism and poor maintenance. When a group from Virginia Military Institute poked around the cemetery a few years ago looking for the grave of a former cadet, they ended up cleaning up several gravestones. Now, a nonprofit organization has been started to fund the cemetery’s preservation.
Saving area cemeteries shouldn’t be put off for very long. After all, remember the old saying: “Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.”