During a 1983 family trip to Rehoboth Beach, we had one really awful day. It was chilly and drizzly and foggy – perfect weather for Mom to introduce us to one of her favorite activities. She used to like wandering around old graveyards and reading tombstones – the older, the better. She took us to Lewes, where there are a couple of cemeteries that date back to the late 1600's. My little brother and I passed the time by trying to find the absolute oldest tombstone while Mom looked for "interesting" ones. She found a section with a family of children, all of whom died during the same winter. This made her kind of sad. We didn't really get that, at the time. We do now, I'm sure.
Later in life I would read about a grave marker in Key West that says something like, "I told you I was sick!" The cemeteries of Lewes featured some pithy inscriptions of their own, many of which I didn't fully appreciate until years later, when I went through some of the faded pictures I took that day.
On the headstone of a Capt. Van der Smoot, died 1701 – "His ship landeth in Heaven, where his beloved Elisabeth awaits."
Barely legible on an extremely old and weathered stone – "Here lyeth Peter S[illegible], killed by cows." Killed by cows?
"Loved by no one," was Jonas Burgess, died 1809. Nice.
Imogen Van Grimly's family was a little gentler – "Be not afraid, dearest Mother – the angels taketh ye now, and there will surely be pie."
One marker didn't have a name or any dates – just "Dead Old Bastard."
A large onyx obelisk marked the grave of Timothy Durst, who died in January of 1793 – "He said it was too warm to bother covering his head. Caught pneumonia and now he's dead."
Captain Dunkle, age 44 – "Gentlemen you have my word that we are well out of range of the English muskets."
Jonathan and Josef Christian, twins who died at age six on June 4th, 1754 – "Killed by Indians – should have listened to Mother."
"I don't need any leeches. I just need to rest for a couple of days. You'll see – I'll be right as rain in no time."
"You have to admit – it was pretty funny."
Jonas Silas – "Killed in a duel over the honour of Mary Fredericks. That harlot."
"If he doesn't ask me to the St. Valentine's Social, I'll just die."
On the headstone of one Vladimir Von Etter – "So much for vampire bats rendering their victims immortal."
"I'm so very, very tired."
"Faught with dauntless courage – got shot anyway."
Hester Steele, who died giving birth – "I warned thee that a twenty-third child would be the death of me."
"Now dost thou believeth that she be a witch?"
Robert Layton, age 11 – "Died of fright."
Bernard Winston – "Esther, put the damn knife down!"
Lawrence Tillman, died August 15th, 1799 – "Death clutches me with cold talons, yet I fear not, for You are with me. Death pierces my flesh, yet I feel no pain, for You are with me. Death shreds my heart and drains my blood, but I cry not, for You are with me. Death chops my body into tiny bloody chunks and dances on them, but I weep not, for Death slips in the blood and falls down and looks foolish and it's really very funny. Plus You are with me."