July. The grass of spring had given way to forbs. On my way to start the mower, I counted my wealth...four bucks! One spike, two forked-horns and a three point (six, for those who use the Eastern method of classification). An abundance of dough...ummm...does...and fawns. Those I saw were selective and dainty as they nipped the tops off the forbs that fairly shouted to be mowed. The deer just did not eat enough, fast enough. On my way to the section that needed the most immediate attention, I saw my sweetie talking with a carload of visitors. She needed my help. Or, more accurately, the visitors needed help. They had been searching for a grave location for over half a century, but had never stopped to ask where it might be. After taking them to the site, I headed the mower back to the target section. Another car, and more searchers. This pair worked through the pioneer section, looking at the tops of the oldest monuments. When I intercepted them, I got a heart-warming surprise. The younger man introduced himself as Alexander. He told me that an acquaintance had stolen the top from an old monument, and he wanted it to be back where it belonged...back home, as he put it. We have thousands of graves at Greenwood, and at least a thousand of the old marble obelisks, many of them missing the finial that once topped them, whether crosses or urns. I was mentally sorting through the inventory of missing parts when he told me he had it in the car, and maybe that would help locate where it had been. The two of them cut across the grounds to their car while I mowed the border of the section between where I was and where they were headed. The finial was white marble, cleaned of algae and lichens that darken heritage stones over time in our climate. It was one I had sprayed with D2 when I first heard of its non-damaging cleaning properties. I remembered telling my wife that someone had taken the topper from a monument, but after more than a year, I could not recall just where it was. Looking at the piece, my instincts turned me west, down toward the bay. We had treated monuments in three sections with D2, but those treated more than a year ago were down the slope. I found it. The metal stud that had held the finial was still shiny. Alexander and his dad were still looking farther up the hill. I waved them down my way. Alexander picked up the finial, and they both joined me. I pointed them to the site. The young man cradled the finial in his arms, and said, “My roommate stole it. When he moved out he left it. I just want to return it to its place. I love old cemeteries. It belongs to someone here.” I thanked him for his respect for other people's memories, and watched as he hurried down the slope. The care with which he replaced the finial told me that respect was not merely a show. He really cared. He patted the obelisk, read it, and then sat beside it for perhaps half an hour, talking with his dad.
I know him only as Alexander. The car had California plates. So, Alexander, whoever and wherever you are, thank you. May your example stir care and respect in others.