I started my small online business in September of 2014. I was worried, frustrated, and somewhat confused about selling my handmade crosses online. I survived the first year and have enjoyed ever year since. The best part for me is the creative part of business. Unfortunately the other “stuff” (ie; finances, social media, marketing, shopping, ok maybe not shopping since it’s fun too) all come with the job. I have learned so much and have never been as frustrated with myself all at the same time. So much of what I have learned is from customers, other sites, competition, and trial and error.
I try to learn new ways of creating because I want to improve on my product and make the buying experience enjoyable for my customers. Today I took a trip down memory lane and looked over my past catalog. Yes, it took an hour. I have sold over 5000 crosses since my start in late 2014 and have made no two alike. My crosses are 100% one of a kind
So as I’m looking through I notice a few things about my designs. Maybe I have paid too much attention to my competition and haven’t always stayed true to myself. Is better always better? While trying to keep up with volume have I lost my nerve to be more creative? Is was worth the trip down memory lane. I learned something new today, to stop and think, “is this really my best?”
I know it may seem odd since my business is cemetery decorations but I like the idea of green burial. It’s more than just the ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in a word-simple. I think it’s important to have one final decision in life and that is how your death or life will be celebrated. Now this is not a simple choice if you have a child that has proceeded you in death, a husband, a sibling, a partner. I had to make choices for my family members without knowing exactly what they wanted. I tried to make decisions that were appropriate, respectful, and loving but those were choices I made for them, and it was a long time before I forgave myself for something I had no control over. My parents, and siblings have been gone for over 25 years and the pain doesn’t flood me as it once did. The deaths just came suddenly but not surprisingly. I lost my mother, younger brother, and father all within 9 months. I had already buried my stepfather and my oldest brother, and my middle brother would follow in just a few years. I was afraid, afraid to talk to them about death even though most of them were inevitable, but it was so much simpler to just put it away in the back of my mind. What I wasn’t prepared for is I would be the only decision maker, the only one left to make those choices.
I started making my crosses over 20 years ago. I lost most of my childhood family and I needed to process my grief. These crosses came to me one night while I was lying in bed. It wasn’t until ten years later that my daughters would convince me that others would also like my crosses. And the rest as they say is history, no it’s my life.
My youngest brother was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1962. My mother would make him a pumpkin pie every year for his birthday. She said it was his favorite but I think it was her way of paying him back for the Thanksgiving she missed in 1962. My brother would celebrate his first birthday with pumpkin pie of course but it was not a happy celebration as that was the day that President Kennedy was shot and died of his injuries.
My brother would die on New Years Eve of 1999, yet another holiday that would not be celebrated for years following his death. I always like to make something special for his grave celebrating his life, his birthday. His favorite color was orange and so it is very easy to decorate his grave for Fall. This year I decided to break from this tradition and decorate his grave with a bright green and yellow wreath I made. The wreath is thick enough and just heavy enough to be held by his vase alone. Very cheerful, he was a very cheerful kid.
In my last post I wrote about my inspiration for posting pictures and comments about Kansas cemeteries. Not the huge mid century cemeteries and their big Masoleums or the newer cemeteries with flat markers, big statues and biblical names for each section. My inspiration is a YouTube channel called Sidestep Adventures. On this YouTube channel they take you through Georgia and Alabama cemeteries that many don’t realize exist and are so old they aren’t even mapped.
I’m starting in my own county of Sedgwick in the state of Kansas. Prairie cemeteries mark the harsh realities of what life was like in the early to late 1800s. The cemeteries are small and some of them are no longer hidden due to urban sprawl. Marked in stone is the life the prairie provided for the first that settled Kansas.
These pictures are of Eldridge Cemetery near Colwich KS. This is a farming community outside of Wichita KS. Colwich was once miles outside of the city but today is only 7 miles away from Wichita. There is no one named Eldridge buried here. The first grave that I could find belonged to a child named F. Arthur , age 1 year- 9 mos. Little Arthur is laid to rest with his father who shares the same stone maker. Most of the graves are from the late 1800s to the very early 1900s with very few exceptions. The majority of the graves are of infants, children, and young adults, with their parents following in death. There is one small mausoleum building with no identification of its owner. The cemetery is well groomed and some flowers were placed at one grave. The legacy of this Kansas cemetery seems to be the hard life of early farming in Kansas.
Every year we drive up to Minnesota to see our youngest daughter and her partner. It’s such a long drive from Kansas (12 hours) that unless we have planed ahead we simply just drive, and that’s a lot of highway.
When we do pull off the highway, and as long as it doesn’t take us too far off the path, I try to locate local cemeteries. The small city of Cameron, Missouri has a population of around 10,000. Give or take a few thousand. This small size city has the daunting task of taking care of 5 cemeteries. All five are large cemeteries and all five belong to the city of Cameron. The cemeteries are: McDaniel 600+, Packard 2000+, Graceland Memorial 1000+, Graceland 2000+, Evergreen 1500+, the numbers represent approximately how many are buried at each cemetery. Cameron had a historical board as well as a cemetery board and with that many cemeteries to maintain its easy to understand why they have the boards. I’m in awe of how such a small city manages to maintain so much cemetery acreage.
Now the title may fool you into believing that I just might be writing about something other than cemeteries but I’m not. I’ve been visiting cemeteries for most of my life. It started when I was around 10 my mother would let me come along on Memorial Day as she decorated graves. Her only rules were ; you can’t talk, and you can’t ask a lot of questions. My mother knew me well. I took the job over at 19 when my oldest brother died and have been visiting the resting places of my nuclear family for the last 35 years. I do have a few questions that still wonder from time to time….
Where are all the graves from the west migration in America (1865-1900) . I’m a child of the 70s and so I watched a lot of westerns in my youth and it seems to me that they buried people just about anywhere and marked with a makeshift wood cross.
I’ve learned that there are many unmarked graves of Americans and cemeteries that were sold with property were often destroyed. Many small towns that no longer exist had small town cemeteries that no longer exist. The answer , like most things in life, is not clear. It depends on how far west, how close to a town, and if the town had an undertaker, or a church cemetery. It was the Wild West and many parts of eastern civilized American life took time to reach the bold frontier. Indigenous people have been buried in American soil for thousands of years and they are the history of this nation as are the burial sites they once preserved. I do know one thing, my mother would be frustrated with me if she knew I was still pondering the same questions.
Like every state in the union Kansas has many small Cemeteries. Mount Zion is one such cemetery. This quiet little piece of green earth is along highway 160 and almost appears as a highway rest stop. Some of the earliest buried there are from the 1800’s with the latest burial in 2020. Mount Zion was once referred to as the Kellogg Cemetery. I can only assume that the cemetery sits on land that was once owned by the Kellogg family. There are four Kellogg family members laid to rest there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. When you visit this cemetery of roughly 200 souls on Find A Grave you will notice two things; one the family names are repetitive and very few died of old age. The Hubbard family have 7 children all under the age of 17 buried there, all with different dates and years of death. The Hubbard parents and extended family are not laid to rest there, which makes one wonder if they had too much of the Kansas prairie and left for a better life and less painful memories.
The weather has been warmer and my walks have been longer. I live in a neighborhood that has parks, sidewalks, and friendly neighbors. I ran into a neighbor that I heard had lost his wife in 2020 , but I had not had the chance to tell him personally how sorry I was. His booming voice called me over and I told him how sorry I was to hear of his wife’s passing. He and his wife would walk in good weather even after hip and knee replacements. His voice started to break as he talked about her. My heart broke as I listened. He explained that the “virus took her”. I finished my walk and began to think about everything he had said. This couple was not young but they took good care of each other. They got their flu shots, pneumonia shots, and went to the doctor annually. I thought even beyond his loss and about the total loss of life to COVID. To date 500,000.00 people have died of COVID in the United States. If you consider for one moment that each life lost affects 10 other people spiritually, emotionally, and financially then that total comes to 5 Million. Five million + souls walking around in 2020 trying to understand what happened. Be kind people, it was a very hard year.
I took this cross to baby Paul’s grave today for Christmas. Below is my original post from 2016 about baby Paul.
Can’t see the forest through the trees.🌳
I tell myself that starting with the New Year I will learn to slow down and take a moment to see what is in the world around me. Living in the present is what it’s called, to take note and of what is around you and learn from it, value it, an awareness of time.
Now there are two things I have learned about living in the present. The first is if you are a parent raising children you are living in the moment ALL the time, the only problem is you are so busy that you barely have time to appreciate a shower much less “the moment”. The second it is so much easier to live in the now and appreciate the world around you when you are older and have finished raising your kids.I experienced one small example of this the other day.
Two of my brothers, my stepfather , and stepbrother are all buried in a small area of a local cemetery. I have been visiting and decorating their graves for various holidays for over 20 years. I know every section of that cemetery, every tree, every new grave. When I visited the cemetery with a friend to place some of my holiday memorial crosses on the graves my friend ask me if this baby’s grave was a relative. Baby grave? What? I looked at the stone that was inches away from my family and read the dates; birth June 16 1895, death July 6, 1895. It’s not that I hadn’t noticed the grave before. I noticed it was old, alone, and it had a male name inscribed. I had also noticed how close it was to my family graves. In 20 years I had never stopped once to actually read the marker. I was somewhat embarrassed to admit to my friend that I had never noticed it. My mother would call that not being able to see the forest through the trees. In other words, we are so busy with our own little world that we don’t acknowledge what is around us.
The next time I go I think I will bring along an extra cross for that baby I never knew or took a moment to see.