Deachman: Why I keep coming back to wander around Beechwood Cemetery

Some of the headstones at Beechwood Cemetery, particularly in the older military section, are almost completely covered in snow these days, the names of those interred below them temporarily hidden from view.

But winter hasn’t completely won. There are indentations in the snow around each marker, as the sun warms the stones and the reflected heat melts the snow around them. If you squint your imagination a little, it’s not difficult to picture the stories of those long dead souls freeing themselves for our benefit.

Beechwood turns 150 years old this year, and it’s worth reflecting on that, too. Far from simply a place to house the departed, it is a repository of the lives and stories of close to 85,000 people scattered throughout the cemetery’s 160 acres. They are the threads that made up the fabric of Ottawa. The statesmen and stateswomen are here, true, but so are the rogues, the “unfortunates,” the friendless. It’s a living, changing testament, with new stories added all the time and old ones occasionally amended. It’s full of tradition, history, poignancy and, sometimes, humour. In many respects, it’s a public library with fresh air.

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