A Walk through Forest Hills Cemetery in Utica

Walking through the gates at Forest Hill Cemetery the atmosphere was surprisingly peaceful. Beautiful trees scattered throughout my view of headstones, the setting sun casting shadows all around. It got me thinking- do most people find cemeteries to be spooky, and if so, do they then miss the great opportunities that lie within?

There is such beauty in what lies in the past.

When walking the paths throughout a cemetery let your mind wander to what once was or what could have been. Seeing the names and dates, sometimes even little tidbits about who these humans were, can lead to questions or curiosities. I personally like to write down names that stick out to me and research later or try to create family trees in my mind when there are large groups of family members all together! Bring a journal or notebook to write your findings.

In the spirit (pun intended) of pensive thinking while looking at headstones, crypts, mausoleums, and more, the mystery of it all becomes about as clear as mud. In today’s day and age we have more information than we can ever fully understand right at our finger tips but when searching for information about the past, we often come up with very little to build on. 200 years from now, future generations will have so much more information about us than we can scrounge up about our ancestors!

You’ll also likely notice that some headstones or memorials are in excellent condition while others are hardly legible or even falling over. The juxtaposition can be emotional; each person was a living being at one point, equal in intrinsic worth. Yet in death they may not have had family nearby to care for their final resting place. It’s okay to let those feelings take space, sit with them awhile.

Apart from walking, creative thinking or historical research, you can occasionally find recipes–small legacies from that person that can live on through food. Take picture of the recipe and learn to cook or bake it! Maybe even follow in Rosie Grant’s footsteps and bring a little slice or plate of the food back to their headstone and enjoy it with them! (Her social media journey of graveyard recipes is truly fascinating! Find her on TikTok.)

Some cemeteries are small and it wouldn’t take much time at all to see every stone while others, like Forest Hill, are large and you could fill a whole day wandering and reading, thinking, and listening. Whichever way you choose to, I hope you find time to stroll through Forest Hill (or another cemetery) and learn some thing about history or yourself in the process!

This special feature article was written by Claire Steffen with photos by Sarah Rogers.

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