Now whenever I’m out of town, I always make it a point to visit a cemetery. To me, they are better than any mountain range, skyline or other popular tourist attraction. They are hidden treasures containing a wealth of information about communities and the people who lived there.
Chances are you have visited a cemetery at some time in your life to pay your respects to a family member or friend, and perhaps you too appreciate the stories represented among the tombstones and monuments.
My travels take me to all over the South and Midwest – and sometimes further North – so I have decided to start documenting my cemetery visits with a series of photos in a Sunday feature.
Founded in December 1848, The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani is the oldest monastery in the United States that is still operating. It’s located on 2,000 acres in New Haven, KY.
The Trappist monks begins their day at 3:15 a.m., pray seven times a day and support themselves and the abbey through its store, Gethsemani Farms, which sells handmade Trappist cheeses, bourbon fudge and fruitcake, which was once rated “best overall” by the Wall Street Journal.
Although off limits to the general public, the Trappist monks cemetery at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani is like a slice of heaven. It features uniformed white metal crosses that overlooks a valley and the lush green hills of Kentucky. According to Wikipedia, the monks are buried in the traditional Trappist manner, in their monastic habit and without a casket.
Probably the most famous of the Trappist monks buried here is author and social activist Thomas Merton, whose best-selling 1948 autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” took the world by storm. His grave marker reads: “Fr. Louis Merton, Died Dec. 10, 1968.” In 1996, the Dali Lama visited the grave of Merton whom he had met in 1968 — three weeks before Merton’s accidental death by electrocution in Bangkok. The Dalai Lama placed a kata on Merton’s grave which still remains at the site today. Thomas Merton, who was born on January 31, 1915, would have been 100 years old this year.
Thomas Merton quote:
“Why do we spend our lives striving to be something we would never want to be, if we only knew what we wanted? Why do we waste our times doing things, which, if we only stopped to think about them, are the opposite of what we were made for?”