A small cemetery overlooks the ocean in Cow Bay. Hidden from the road by trees, it holds numerous graves, many of which no longer have markers. It’s quiet and peaceful as many such places are.
One of the gravestones dating back to 1889 has the following words by Henry Longfellow engraved on it:
There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.
Longfellow himself died in 1882, just a few years earlier. [The American Longfellow is well known in Nova Scotia for writing Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, which relates the story of the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in the 1700s].
The word elysian in the poem refers to the final resting place of the virtuous dead. A place so named refers to paradise or the afterlife. The ancient Greek poet Pindar described it as a place “soothed by ocean breezes, surrounded by blazing flowers and shining trees. ”
At the centre of the cemetery, where there are most likely unmarked graves, cranberries grow despite a recent lawn mowing. They’ll likely provide sustenance for birds in Autumn. Seasons change and Man comes and goes, but Nature carries on its work from age to age.
Lord, make me to know my end.
And what is the extent of my days.
Let me know how transient I am.
Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight.
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.
~ Psalm 39: 4-5