I went armed with a list of people. Along with a map of the cemetery and the sections where these people were buried, I started off thinking I was well prepared.
I left the car behind to traverse the cemetery on foot. What better way to get a feel for the place, to see the sights, the curve of the land, the iconography on tombstones than to stroll the grounds?
Often what seems good in theory doesn’t turn out to be good in reality.
I consulted my map and headed for the southern side of the cemetery, taking the tunnel under 38th street. The heat and humidity wasn’t too bad. Yet. The clouds mostly blocked out the sun and sporadically sent down kisses of rain.
First up, Dillinger. I thought his gravestone would be harder to find. Nope. There was a big Dillinger family stone with individual stones for him and what appeared to be his parents. I looked to either side of him wondering how his neighbors felt about being buried next to an outlaw. Not that the dead have much of a say in things like this.
Wow. It’s going to be easier to find the people I was seeking than I thought it would be!
I headed off into the thicket of the southern bits of the cemetery. George Washington Julian. I knew nothing about him except that he was an abolitionist and supporter of women’s rights, which makes him OK in my book. And there his tombstone was. I whispered thank yous to him.
I should have known that the universe was setting me up. Finding those tombstones was too easy.
I headed even further south, toward a huge section that housed African Americans. I was on a quest to find the two doctors I had learned about at the Indiana Historical Society last month: Dr. Harvey Middleton and Dr. Henry Hummons. Both were buried at Crown Hill.
I combed the section, daunted by its sheer size. The tombstones in this section were mostly flat on the ground. Not large monuments to proclaim a family or an important figure. Clearly the doctors weren’t being recognized after their deaths. Darn. This was going to be harder than I thought.
I started to systematically walk down the rows. Oh, this was going to take forever…but as long as I found them, it would be worth it.
As minutes ticked by, as row after row blurred into the next, the heat and humidity became oppressive. The backpack dug into my neck. My lips were dry. I realized how parched I was. And I brought no water with me. Good planning.
I was determined to find them. Where were they? I circumambulated the section. Maybe they were on an edge? Nope. Maybe if I randomly wandered the section I would find them? Nope. Maybe if I called on God to direct me to them? Nope. Maybe if I called on the dead to point the way? Nope.
I could feel my energy waning and my body becoming more dehydrated. Tick. Tick. My time to find them was running out. I was going to have to leave to track down water. Or risk joining them.
Discouraged and forlorn I scanned for the doctors again. And then started on the long trek back to my car for water.
After hydrating myself, I decided to dive back into searching for others on my list…but this time, to ensure that I don’t join them, I drove to the various sections rather than walk.
I quickly and easily found the Indiana Aids Memorial and sites for Col. Eli Lilly, Benjamin Harrison, Booth Tarkington, Bernard Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut’s grandfather), and of course, James Whitcomb Riley. They were easy to find with big memorials that screamed “I was an important person”.
But two other very important people, Dr. Harvey Middleton and Dr. Henry Hummons, were nowhere to be found. They seemed to lack the same sort of monuments that celebrate lives and defy us to forget the dead. They were awash in a sea of tombstones.
I had to concede. Section 98 got the better of me, refusing to offer up the secret spots of those elusive doctors.