“Behold and See as you Pass By
As you are Now so Once was I
As I am Now you soon will Be
Prepare for Death and Follow Me.”
On the grounds of St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan, New York City, is a tombstone that stands upright in the earth of the chapel’s cemetery with the above inscription. The Episcopal chapel dates back to the 1700s.
So recently as I was returning home from a dentist appointment, I stopped in to linger briefly in the old cemetery at St. Paul’s Chapel, one of my favorites, to admire the old headstones, with their antique font, archaic verbiage, and then to imagine the lives of the people who once walked around right where I was standing, and all of the layers of lives that have traversed these grounds since.
Though the church itself dates back to the 1700s, many of the headstones look much older than they are; most of the dates I read were from the 1800s.
I’ve written here before about how much I love cemeteries, though how different these are from the ones I viewed from afar in Africa! These graves are in the middle of a metropolis and just steps away from the World Trade Center site (now One World Observatory).
With all this activity, I wonder, can these souls rest in peace, especially when they overlay an underground system of active trains that rumble night and day beneath them?
About a mile north of lower Manhattan’s St. Paul’s Chapel cemetery is another extremely tiny cemetery, tucked away behind a brick wall and bars in a triangular plot on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village. The plaque outside reads “The Second Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.” (Two others are hidden away elsewhere in Manhattan, one in Chinatown and the other on West 21st Street.)
I couldn’t get close enough to see the dates on any of the headstones in this small enclosed burial ground, but I doubt they compare to how old the graves are at the first cemetery in Salem, Mass., known as “The Burying Point,” many of which date back to the 1600s.
Like the one of this young soul who, it says here, lived a mere “nineteen winters in this world.”
More on this one come Halloween.