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Looking For A Grave

On the reservation

I’m walking through a cemetery in Shiprock, New Mexico, looking for my great-grandfather’s grave.  On the horizon sits the Shiprock itself, a sacred mountain that is blue today underneath the gray sky.  It is the only marker on the skyline.

All around me are dirt mounds, flowers, American flags, and wire decorations.  Many of the mounds have glasses of water on top of them.

During our tour of the reservation, we drove by a mental health facility.  My grandpa Hanagarne told me this joke:

“That’s the place where everyone says,’Why am I in here?  Because I’m not all there.'”

It has been a great day

And yet, as I look at each mound, I know that there was a day on  which each of these graves was surrounded by people whose hearts were broken.  That every day is somebody’s worst day.

Maybe even today.

Make yours a good one.


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  • Jaky Astik January 30, 2010, 1:29 am

    I’ve visited there once. It’s super fabulous. Everything is far and clean!

    • Josh Hanagarne January 30, 2010, 7:43 pm

      It’s one of the least clean places I’ve ever been in.

  • Sue January 30, 2010, 6:00 am

    Few words… very powerful. This post touches me on many levels. Thanks Josh.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 30, 2010, 7:44 pm

      Thanks Sue. It’s been an emotional trip. I’m in Moab tonight and have a lot to think about, but first I’ve got a few more people to go talk to.

  • Amy January 30, 2010, 8:31 am

    I should have guessed you were doing something related to graves. My husband and I own 6 funeral homes, so we’re always surrounded with end-of-life activities. On our honeymoon, we visited the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Romantic, huh?

    Looking forward to meeting you and training with you Saturday!

  • Philippe Til January 30, 2010, 9:13 am

    Your last name is Native American. What does it stand for?
    Have you found what you’re looking for? Or is the journey, as always, more important?

    • Josh Hanagarne January 30, 2010, 7:44 pm

      It stands for “One who walks around.” It’s been a good trip, in many ways. I’ll be able to talk about it more soon.

  • Laurie January 30, 2010, 9:22 am

    This is your research, eh? That’s pretty cool your grandfather is still around, and still with the facility to be able to make jokes about other people not being all there. Both of my grandfathers are the stuff of legend by now, so that’s neat to have the direct link, not only to your grandfather himself, but to the previous generation, as well. Certainly this is among the worthiest research I can think of.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 30, 2010, 7:45 pm

      Thanks Laurie. As soon as I’m able to talk about the reasons for coming down here, many things will make more sense.

  • Todd January 30, 2010, 9:25 am

    I agree with Sue. Short. Sweet. Poignant.

    Have a safe journey, Josh.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 30, 2010, 7:45 pm

      Thanks Todd. I’m ready to come home. Now, down to the hotel’s lame fitness room with my kettlebell!

  • Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave January 30, 2010, 9:42 am

    When I was a kid, I thought the sadness of losing the person (being buried) was the reason relatives who normally didn’t speak were able to cry on each others shoulder.

    May you travel safe, in every sense.

  • Daisy January 30, 2010, 5:25 pm

    Good wishes for the trip – and the bonding and family history.

  • Justin Matthews January 30, 2010, 7:44 pm

    What a check of reality and perspective. Life should be lived while it is here and remembered after it is gone. While we mourn the day of death and the funeral, after the pain fades the memories are what defines us. My last grandpa died 3 years ago. I still miss him but I have some fabulous memories.
    I hope you do too.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 30, 2010, 7:46 pm

      Justin, I literally have no bad memories of any of my grandparents. I still have my two grandfathers. Both great men.

  • Lori January 31, 2010, 5:44 pm

    I grew up in the Midwest near what is now sacred Indian grounds. I can remember finding arrow heads and pieces of pottery as a kid and wanting to leave them where I found them (which I did). I felt that if I removed them, it would disturb some cosmic force. They’d been there for who knows how long, maybe there were there for a reason. You know?

    I love that you’re in NM, Josh. Enjoy and I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts.


    • Josh Hanagarne January 31, 2010, 7:46 pm

      Thanks Lori. It was a lot of fun. I’m back now and I’m glad. I have a thrilling tale from a slaughterhouse coming up to enthrall you.

  • Eric January 31, 2010, 8:41 pm

    Cemeteries always seem so peaceful to me. On a recent trip to Minnesota we visited a cemetery where many of my ancestors had been buried. This cemetery actually surround the small town church. It was a different type of life back in those days when they spent the days working the farm. A harder, yet simpler life.

  • Jack January 31, 2010, 9:17 pm

    I love the kettlebells in your masthead. Cemeteries are interesting places, refuges and repositories of so many stories.