Rolling hills and towering trees make Forest Hill an apt name for the nearly 200-acre cemetery off of Woodland and Carlisle Avenues. The kids and I spent a recent afternoon exploring the peaceful grounds by walking and biking along the paved path that meanders through it.
The outing provided beautiful scenery – fall leaves, two ponds with geese, sprawling lawn, elaborate gravestones – and unexpected learning opportunities. Here are the topics that arose from our exploration.
The older section of the cemetery is filled with ornate and large grave markers. We saw familiar names such as Congdon and Hartley and talked about how these families made an impact on the Duluth we know today.
Exploring a cemetery gave us an opportunity to discuss the importance of etiquette. We talked about walking around graves and not over them to show respect for the person. We talked about not running or yelling to show respect for those visiting their loved ones. In the end, a state of seriousness was not mastered by my 4-year-old, but she did give it a good try.
Nations and War
We came upon an area with rows of identical white headstones. It was clearly a military section.
After helping him read this grave marker, Daley asked, “What’s the Spanish-American War, Mom?”
I answered, “Let’s call Grampy tonight.”
My dad, despite battling brain cancer at 80, still remembers every fact of military history and easily recalled that this war took place in 1898.
After the phone call, Daley and I did more research together. For children, the concept of “nation” is vague. War is even more vague….and really hard to explain, especially when he asked, “Why is it o.k. to kill someone during war, but not any other time?”
The one topic I was expecting to discuss was death. And we did. They had lots of practical questions about caskets and cremation.
The conversation became deeper when we happened upon a beautiful bench marker engraved with the words that Finley is tracing in this photo.
It was the memorial to a young woman whose life ended too soon. We had met her just once, but she had made a lasting impact on our family with her bright smile and engaging personality. The kids and I talked about how much her family loved her. And how love never ends.
These teachable moments were unexpected. While I’d like to say that I was able to talk eloquently with my kids about such topics, I wasn’t. But being outdoors surrounded by such beauty gave me the space to try.
Have you visited Forest Hill Cemetery? Share your experiences in the comment box below. Thanks!