Woods Walker Online

Walking with the Dead

New Gloucester Lower Cemetery
Michael Fralich, August 14, 2023

I don’t belong to a gym. I do not lift weights. I do not do sit-ups. I walk. I ride my horse. These two activities are my exercise program. My walking takes place in a variety of favorite places. Lately my walks have been a daily visit to the Lower Village Cemetery. I drive there. I live in the lower village so my “commute” to the cemetery takes me under two minutes. I enter at the second road. It takes me to the Haskell Park side of the cemetery. It is the newer section of this burying ground. I park in the furthest loop at the bottom of the cemetery.

When I arrived today, once outside the car I found the air washed clean by last night’s thunderstorm. On a recent visit after our epic six inch rainstorm, I found the bridge that connects the older section with the newer one to be nearly under water. Stevens Brook had burst it’s banks and water was flowing in places I had never seen before. On this day the brook was at a more normal level, active but not in flood. From my parking place at the bottom of the road loop, there are not many graves. Instead a vibrant green lawn greeted me. The grass was wet and sparkling in the morning sun. I could hear but not see Steven’s Brook. It is at the bottom of a significant gorge on the village side of the cemetery.

Rev. Foxcroft monument

As I made my way up the rise that would take me to where graves began to crowd together in a community of the dead, a great blue heron rose on silent, wide wings and flew over my head. I could hear but not see crows in a conversation somewhere near-by. As I made my way through the gravestones, I picked up names of people I had known in my forty-two years of living in New Gloucester. Many names brought to mind the living face of the one long since in the ground. Memories of bean suppers at my church helped along by those now gone came to mind. I try to find Alma Berry’s grave when I walk. I inherited a column in the New Gloucester News from her when she died. I wrote for the paper for two decades before it folded under the banner “Greetings from Norumbega”.

Two year old Hannah’s grave stone

I also passed the graves of young men, dead too soon, from drugs and accidents. They always make me sad thinking how hard it must be to bury one’s child. I dropped down to the granite bridge over the brook. The rushing water filled my ears and soul with the never ending flow of the brooks I have known, reminding me too of the endless march of time. Crossing over the bridge I entered the older section of the cemetery. Here the stories were older. The names only familiar because of many former walks here. I passed by the stone telling me the story of C.H. Thompson and his family. He, his wife Susie and their three year old daughter, Gladys all perished when the steamer Portland sank in 1898.

C. H. Thompson’s monument

The closer I got to Gloucester Hill Road I got in my ramble, the older the graves were. The most prominent marker in this section honors the Reverend Samual Foxcroft who was the first minister of the Congregational Church across from our house in the village. His well preserved house is diagonally across from my home. This section of the cemetery has the small markers of children claimed all too soon by disease before they had a chance to be who they might have become.

Granite bridge over Stevens Brook

I made my way back across the granite bridge and my waiting car, passing by our blank plot that will someday be our eternal resting place. The day was fresh, the memories mostly happy ones, brought forth by my walking with the dead.

Cemetery road