By Marianne Linka
A beautiful day! The sun was shining, breakfast with my daughters, and heading to the shore. On the way we stopped to photograph the progress happening at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Berlin.
As we pulled off of the White Horse Pike onto the stone pathway, a silence fell over us. The land, recently cleared, rolled away from us into the distance. The noise of the traffic on the pike behind us was muffled by the trees and slight rise. There was a feeling of sacred space.
Often, while visiting cemeteries, thoughts travel back to our past. Relatives, friends and even those we had no connection to in life are laid to rest. But a strong connection in death is shared by all of us. We all hope to live our lives so that we continue on fondly in the memories of those who remain behind. Each headstone represents a life that touched numerous others. While reading headstones I often remember the poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. Our lives are not defined by the birth date or the death date but how we spent the time between those dates, the dash.
This expansion at Gate of Heaven cemetery will provide burial and eventually mausoleum and columbarium space for not only those living their dash now, but for future generations. My visit to this space made me consider those lives currently being lived rather than the lives past that most cemeteries bring to mind. My prayers that these lives are being lived to make a positive impact on the world are sent to the heavens, asking for guidance for those who will eventually be laid to rest here.
Gate of Heaven cemetery opened in 1948 and availability of burial space has been rapidly decreasing in recent years. The addition of 11 acres to this cemetery offers opportunities for local families to continue their tradition of being buried at Gate of Heaven. It allows families new to this area to start a new tradition for themselves and for future generations. Pre-need sales of burial rights are expected to be offered in the spring of 2015 with burials beginning the following autumn.
While wandering through the older sections at Gate of Heaven, I observed the visitors of which there were many on this fine Sunday morning. We visit cemeteries to make connections to our past, to honor our predecessors, and to stop to say a prayer that they are truly at peace. The Catholic cemeteries of the Diocese of Camden strive to be welcoming and respectful environments. We welcome all visitors to come and sit a spell or enjoy a brisk walk through this open space. The various chapel mausoleums offer quiet reverent places to stop and pray or open one’s self to the silence.
For information on the progress at Gate of Heaven or information about any of the 15 locations of the Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Camden, visit us at www.SouthJerseyCatholicCemeteries.org
Marianne Linka is director of Cemeteries of the Diocese of Camden