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Five Minute Friday Less

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Yesterday, I participated in a volunteer gathering to do “headstone restoration” at a local cemetery where veterans are buried.

“‘These colors don’t run’ so we are not canceling” is what the coordinator said Friday night on Facebook.

Things are canceling left and right due to Coronavirus, but I decided I needed to show up and fulfill my commitment even though I could have said I needed to create “social distance.”

Here’s an epiphany: “Headstone restoration is not cleaning the headstones with a cleaning solution and elbow great. Oh no – it is placing braces on them, then manipulating them to loosen the ground around them, then lifting them out of their “sockets.”

Five Minute Friday Less
This is one of the braces.

The intent is to repack the “socket” so the headstones are appropriately aligned with each other and not leaning at nonuniform angles.

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This is one of the sockets. The goal was 20″ deep x 15″ long x 8″ wide.

Justin (last name unknown) from the National Cemetery in Tallahassee was there to oversee the process. He’s the foreman at the cemetery and has been overseeing national cemetery work for 12 years.

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Justin demonstrating how to reseat a headstone.

I was in awe of his knowledge about the process and his attention to detail.

Once he worked with us to get the first stone in the row at the right height and alignment, he didn’t go to the next one (or have us go to the next one). He went to the last one in the row and got it perfect. It was the “keystone,” he said, and he arranged two strings, one at the bottom and one at the top, to run down the entire line of headstones so we would know how to put all the headstones between the first and the last in place.

*end of five minutes*

There was a lesson in that, it seemed. The lesson appeared to be “look down the road to where you want to end up, and draw a line back from that to your starting place. Otherwise, you could end up out of line.

It was detailed and the work itself was quite physical, but our veterans deserve no less.

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

Five Minute Friday Less

6 thoughts on “Less

  1. I wondered how they got them so uniform. Thank you for your wonderful service!
    This reminds me of when Daddy would build a fence in the pastures on the ranch. He’d set the first pole, then drive the quarter mile or however far to where he wanted to set the last post. Then string a line of barbed wire between the two and use it as a marker to set the poles. His fences were a work of art!

    • I can’t say I’m an expert after one morning, just that it opened my eyes to the process (and how important it is to have someone who knows it well guiding a bunch of volunteers. AND to have enough “stone dust,” but that’s a story for a different blog someday.

  2. Thank you, Paula, with all my heart.

    I have friends asleep in many places,
    but they live on in my mind.
    Some left without many traces,
    and I buried that which I could find.
    There is, far off, a leafy dell
    with birdsong as its only sound,
    that once was blasting, shrieking hell,
    and that today is hallowed ground
    where rest the bits of still-loved men
    whose country never brought them home,
    whose brothers can’t ‘remember when’
    beside a tombstone white as bone,
    but whose memory is a flame
    in burning letters, honoured name.

    • It’s a process with a capital “P” and I only scratched the surface. They were talking about how often they redo them — I was not really part of the conversation, but I think it involves multiple decades if it’s done right in the first place.

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