The View from Burial Hill

I parked my car, went up eight steps and a gentle slope. Sitting on a green bench, surrounded by gravestones, a breathtaking view in a quiet space. Plymouth is spread out below, close enough to see people laughing and taking pictures of the Rock; the rolling Atlantic peeks out between the houses and continues to the horizon, dotted with boats.

Most people get to this place from the shore or town center, up a couple of steep, long staircases. The main paths have a quite an incline, and most visitors are out of breath by the time they arrive at this view – breathtaking in a whole different way. It’s almost as if such a view needs to be earned, either by climbing or dying. Do only the worthy get a bench with a view?

But there’s a back way, the way I came. It’s off the main street, behind a municipal maintenance building, in a lot far enough away from downtown that it’s free of parking meters. The pavement is old, cracked and bumpy. Most of the people who come this way live or work in Plymouth. They know its pretty face and its seamy side, the history and today’s issues. They aren’t visitors, they are residents and relatives. They live, love, work, and play here. They probably don’t come to this bench on this hill anywhere near as often as they could, busy with town and water life below. Still, this is their past, present, and future – something they can have for a quick trip over a few steps and a gentle rise. No need to prove worthiness on the beaten trail. It’s enough to love the bench, the company of ancestors, and the view.

Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, but admiration and gratitude. Maybe that’s why the graveyard is here: even death can show us something amazing and peaceful if we take a seat and keep still long enough to look.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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