Behind The Gravestones
Memories of Growing Up on a Cemtery Part 4
Are you interested in genealogy? Have you ever worked on your family tree? Some find it tedious, but for me it is such a thrill to sift through dusty books and stacks of paper to find each tiny clue to add to my family tree, to piece together the connections. I got serious about genealogy and family history in high school, (which is already much younger than the average hobby genealogist), and the spark goes back even further – back to all of the time I spent playing amongst the gravestones as a child.
You see, I grew up behind the scenes of the funeral industry just as my Dad did before me and as my own children are doing now. My first childhood home was actually situated on the grounds of a cemetery. While we were very aware and respectful of the purpose of ‘our yard’, my siblings and I were very comfortable out playing amidst the gravestones when there were no services that day. As you can imagine, it is an absolutely epic place for hide and seek or Easter egg hunts, and believe it or not, a cemetery is a lovely, peaceful place for a picnic.
My oldest sister, Courtney, always had quite the talent for imaginative storytelling, and she would lead the rest of us on colorful adventures through the cemetery. Sometimes, she would stop to tell us some (completely fabricated) historical fact about one gravestone or another. Sometimes, we would just wonder aloud what someone was like when they were alive. One day when we were visiting a very old cemetery, (it’s not uncommon for our family to make a detour or two during a road trip to check out an interesting old cemetery), my sisters and I found a very old crumbling headstone. We brushed dirt out of the letters until we could barely make out the name Rosalee. She died when she was 17. We wondered about who she was and how she died, and then I remember so distinctly Courtney asked, “Do you think anyone has thought about her in 100 years?” Boom. Spark lit. One hundred and fifty years ago, Rosalee was alive, and here, and special and loved.
Who were the Rosalees in my family waiting to be discovered? To me, the pursuit of genealogy is about so much more than finding connections to heroes, pirates, or kings that might show up in our family tree. It’s about the real, hard-times, hands-on, everyday stories of our ancestors. The culmination of the lives of the eleven dozen Johns and Marys. That’s why every marriage license I find, every name identified on some ancient ship’s passenger log, or any obscure mention in a by-gone newspaper is a treasure to me. Each dot I connect, no matter how mundane, is a part of our history; one of many events in the many lives that make up the line leading from our ancestors to our children’s children’s children and beyond. Every piece of a family’s story is important. Your family’s story is important.
For three generations, the Darst Family’s story has been about proudly serving families in their time of need. It is our calling and our passion to provide funeral services that are tailored to celebrate each person as an individual and a beloved part of their family’s great adventures. Darst Funeral Home staff are available to help your family any time: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Just call us at 281-312-5656.
Erin Hein is the daughter of John Darst of Darst Funeral Home. She lives in Kingwood with her husband, Evan and their two children, Jack and Caroline. They are excited to be welcoming a new baby in September. We would love to address your specific questions in the next article, so if you are curious about something in particular, please feel free to email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read the other installments of this story here:
Part 1: Earliest Memories
Part 2: Holidays on a cemetery
Part 3: This Little Light of Mine
Part 4: Genealogy
Part 5: The Man Behind The Magic
Part 6: No Cancer But a Dose of Perpective
Part 7: A Year Full of Yes
Part 8: Last Moments and First Steps
Part 9: Facing Fathers Day Without Your Father
Part 10: When Children Grieve
Part 11: From Velvet to Violets: Shedding New Light on Saying Goodbye
Part 12: If it Won't Open, It's Not Your Door
Part 13: Love, After All
Part 14: New Beginnings
Part 15: Not Goodbye, Just Goodnight
Part 16: Holding Space for Dying
Part 17: Grieving and Pets: A Family Affair
This story was originally published in Kingwood Dockline Magazine in August 2015. You can see the magazine in its entirety here: https://www.docklinemagazine.com/assets/kw3.pdf