Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Rest in peace at Valley Grove October 31, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:39 AM
The cemetery rests next to the 1862 and 1894 Valley Grove churches near Nerstrand.

A serene and picturesque cemetery rests next to the 1862 and 1894 Valley Grove churches near Nerstrand.

My favorite of all the gravestones at Valley Grove, beautiful in simplicity and beautiful in name, Berit Hope.

My favorite of all the gravestones at Valley Grove, beautiful in simplicity and beautiful in name, Berit Hope.

FOR YEARS, CEMETERIES scared me. Not in the sense of ghosts or spirits or anything evil. But rather I cringed at the thought of stepping upon graves, knowing that underneath the layers of earth and of grass, within a box, a body lay.

Eventually my perspective changed, evolving as I aged. With maturity come wisdom and an acceptance of death. Loved ones pass on—first my grandparents, then great aunts and uncles, a cousin, a brother-in-law, friends’ husbands, my mother-in-law, a nephew who died too young, an uncle, and, finally, my own father nearly seven years ago.

With each death, I grieve. Yet I become more comfortable, stronger in my faith, more at ease in cemeteries where my loved ones lie.

I’ve come to appreciate cemeteries as a reverent place of peace, of art and of history.

The peace comes in understanding that life after death brings total peace.

The artistic angle stems from headstones viewed as works of art with words and images sculpted in stone.

History lies in the inscriptions of dates and names and carefully-chosen words, all of which tell the stories of individuals who once walked this earth, loved and were loved.

There is so much to learn and value in a cemetery, in a place like Valley Grove Church Cemetery, founded in the late 1800s by Norwegian immigrants northwest of Nerstrand.

I doubt that I’ve ever visited a more serene cemetery, set high on a hill overlooking fields and woods. This is a place of peace, of art and of history—restful and pleasant, rooted deep in the land.

A strong Norwegian name, in strong letters at the base of a strong tombstone.

A strong Norwegian name, in strong letters at the base of a weathered and strong tombstone.

For the Feldman children, Emmalee and twins Owen and Cooper, a red wagon memorial.

For the Feldman children of Northfield, Emmalee and twins Owen and Cooper, a red wagon memorial.

A family gravestone that seems oddly out of place in this primarily Norwegian cemetery at Valley Grove. Perhaps they were refugees welcomed to America.

A family gravestone that seems oddly out of place in this primarily Norwegian cemetery at Valley Grove. Perhaps these were refugees welcomed to America.

Across the fence line, a spectacular autumn vies from the Valley Grove Cemetery.

Across the fence line, a spectacular autumn view from inside the Valley Grove Cemetery.

A touching tribute to Emmalee Ann Pearl Feldman, who was born with a heart defect and lived only 13 days. The family also lost their sons, Owen and Cooper, who were born prematurely.

A touching tribute to Emmalee Feldman, who was born with a heart defect and lived only 13 days. Her brothers, Owen and Cooper, were born prematurely on Feb. 8, 2009, and lived for 19 minutes.

Trees and prairie embrace the country churches of Valley Grove northwest of Nerstrand.

Trees and prairie embrace the country churches and cemetery of Valley Grove northwest of Nerstrand.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling