Last week I went to an ordination in Hendersonville, NC and was surprised to drive right past the cemetery with the Look Homeward Angel. I’m sure that as a child I’d been to see it before but I didn’t remember it at all. So, since I was quite early for the ordination, I turned around and took a drive through the cemetery.
There she was. Very pretty indeed. She’s also called the Thomas Wolfe Angel because of her place in Wolfe’s book Look Homeward, Angel. But when I saw her, she looked to me to be far more of Milton’s poem than Wolfe’s story.
Oh how much family history is recounted in one cemetery or another! I often wonder if the rejection of cremation some have is based upon an unconscious fear of the loss of the story of ancestry. For who are we if we do not know who we come from and cannot, somehow, walk among them, learn their stories and hope to someday see them face to face? Perhaps that is a Southern thing, with our strange near-worship of long dead relatives made possible by the liturgy of history.
Perhaps. But I doubt it is only a Southern thing. I think it is a human thing.
Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth.
And, O ye Dolphins, waft the hapless youth.
–Lycidas by John MiltonImages copywritten by me