Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meet Angela L. Burke, author of "Headboards of Stone - A Mississippi Graveyard Rabbit Blog"


The seventy third in a series

featuring a member of

The Graveyard Rabbit Association


ANGELA L. BURKE


I was very honored to be asked by Sheri Fenley about featuring my blog. I have really enjoyed writing the articles and sharing some of my experiences and places I have visited as a Graveyard Rabbit Blogger.

My interest in Cemeteries goes back to my childhood prior to the age of 7. I spent many sun filled happy times as a little girl, visiting the Shiloh Baptist Cemetery in Lafayette Co Mississippi, with my grandparents and parents. To some that might sound strange, but I never felt scared or intimidated by the cemetery and I actually enjoyed reading the old stones and trying to imagine in my mind what the person might have looked like or what kind of life they might have had. I would go around the surrounding field and pick wild flowers to leave on my favorite stones. Most of whom I didn't know personally. I was always drawn to certain stones in the cemetery that I thought were interesting or beautiful. Even as a child I would sometimes sit near a favorite stone and talk to the person interred as if I expected them to hear me. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. But I always felt as if they heard me and appreciated my visits.



In my grade school years, my parents frequently took my younger brother and I on camping trips at PickWick Dam near The Shiloh Battlefield and the area of the Tennessee River where the Civil War Battle of Shiloh took place. My younger brother and I use to chase jack rabbits across what once was a bloody battlefield. Unknown to us the events that had taken place there. But on one visit when I was around 8 years old, I had a personal experience there that would change my way of looking at and respecting hallowed ground. At the Bloody Pond , I saw the reflection of a young wounded Union Soldier standing behind me and when I turned around to look at him, he was gone. Now that might seem like a tall tale, but to me it was as real as I am sitting here and it would have a major impact on my life and my interest in death and the afterlife.




The year I entered the third grade our family moved to Chattanooga Tn. We lived at the base of Missionary Ridge, where a large battle was fought during the Civil War for control of the Chattanooga Valley. My brothers and friends and I use to play in the old Civil War trenches that wound their way to the top of the Ridge where large cannons stood facing the Valley, where they once fired deadly cannons on the heads of the enemy troops. I use to sit on top of them as a child and watch the sunset behind Lookout Mountain and I would sometimes daydream and wonder about how such a beautiful place could ever have seen such death and bloodshed. Even as a young child I would sometimes surprise myself at the overwhelming feelings of sadness I would feel in these places. Yet I was fascinated by the them.

We would often visit the Chickamauga Battlefield on school field trips and the energies and feeling I felt as a young child, when I would visit these places, left a lasting impression on me.

I remember when I was about 12 , our church youth group visited some Native American Burial Mounds on the Natchez Traceway. I was mesmerized by them and the energies I felt when I approached them. While others my age were running and playing, I sat on the top of the mound daydreaming and wondering what the place was like when it belonged to the Indians. I would take in the nature around me and listen to the birds chirping and katydids singing. Odd I know. I never was a so called normal child.

As a teenager I was offered the opportunity to work as an apprentice to the Mortician of our town funeral home. I was excited to do it , but my Dad was not so thrilled. He said it was “ too morbid of a job for a young lady” and he encouraged me to pursue other options. I have sometimes regretted that I missed the opportunity to learn something about the trade. But my Dad's fears of a morbid profession were soon replaced by a somewhat humorous replacement, instead to his dismay, I became a nurse.
A choice I do not regret. I had many interesting encounters and met people from all walks of life that I would not have otherwise met.

However, it was not all charity, compassion and happy endings. I was also exposed to horrific pain and suffering, unsightly deformities and wounds and of course, death. During the twenty years I spent working as a nurse, I sat with the terminally ill, I watched many people, young and old, pass on. I was exposed to death on a frequent basis. But it did not traumatize me as some might expect. It instead, aroused my curiosity about death and the subjects related to the afterlife.

In the past five years , since leaving the nursing field, I have spent a great deal of time studying subjects related to death and dying. From cultural death rituals, haunted legends and historical places, I have been fascinated with cemeteries and places that I consider to be hallowed ground and sacred sites, such as battlefields, which sometimes became final resting places for the unknown and the forgotten. Many a body was laid in the ground, sometimes stripped of their boots, left with no headstone to mark their resting place and some buried without even the dignity of a coffin. With no mourners to weep at their passing or to remember them in years to come. Some even tossed into mass graves one on top of the other. I think that this has lead me to appreciate the graves that I visit. It has encouraged me to document the old and forgotten country cemeteries that no one remembers or cares for anymore. I somehow sense that it is my duty to remember the dead in anyway I can contribute. I also have a deep interest in Historical Preservation and I try to combine my interest in preservation and documentation by somehow trying to find out about the persons buried in the places I am drawn to. I do volunteer headstone photos for Find A Grave and I am working on compiling an updated list of Marshall County Cemeteries for a future book project publication.

I enjoy taking beautiful pictures. I have found that cemetery photos can be beautiful works of art and I enjoy playing with the light reflections, statues and photographing the carvings that are frequently found on the older headstones. I am by no means a professional and mostly just like to take them for my own pleasure.

I also have an interest in claims of hauntings, legends and lore. I study the paranormal and am a Co Founder and History Research Manager with a volunteer paranormal group known as the Mississippi Society of Paranormal Investigators. I I am also the website manager for our website: www.mississippi-spi.com . When I started my Graveyard Rabbit Blog, it was my intention to try and incorporate a little bit of each of my interest into articles that I could share with others with similar interest.

Poetry is another passion I have and I have found much inspiration for my poems in cemeteries. I published a book entitled "Hauntings In My Head A Collection of Ghostly Southern Poetry", in 2009. The poems in the book were inspired by some of the cemeteries I have visited, stories I have heard or that have been passed down to me and some from my own personal experiences with the unexplained. I think that cemeteries are very inspirational places for writers and artists.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my blog with others who have an interest in cemeteries, whether it be for preservation, historical, artistic or paranormal interest. I hope that anyone who visits my blog site will come away with something interesting and informative. Thanks again to Sheri Fenley for including me in the line up. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to visit and read my Graveyard Rabbit Blog at www.headboardsofstone.blogspot.com.






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