Charyl Says


Nearly 150 Years Later: a Photo Comparison
September 27, 2013, 6:29 pm
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During research for my last post on Lincoln’s Tomb (https://charylmiller.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/a-visit-to-the-lincoln-tomb/), I came across a Library of Congress image originally published in an 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly.  I decided to make a second trip to the tomb and take a photo from the same spot.

I present to you Abraham Lincoln’s original burial vault in Oak Ridge Cemetery in 1865 (top)… and almost 150 years later (bottom, the final monument where his body is now is at the top of the hill, obscured by trees):

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A Visit to the Lincoln Tomb

Even at nine in the morning the warm air bore down on me as I walked across the sun-baked cemetery lawn early in September.  Personal business had brought me to Springfield Illinois on a daily basis for several weeks, and always up for an historical jaunt (especially one involving the Civil War era), I decided to set aside some time to visit the tomb of Abraham Lincoln and family.  It’d been years since I’d last visited the site; just a child at the time.

The mugginess of the day combined with the weekday morning hour made Oak Ridge Cemetery a solitary place.  Save for a couple of elderly tourists, the occasional maintenance crewman, the insects chirping in the trees, and the thousands of silent dead—I had the place to myself.  Odd to wander through this city of the dead, surrounded by a bustling living city just outside the gates where at one time most of these people had walked in a different era; but then that’s a large part of what makes the cemetery such a magical place.

The enormous stone monument situated on a hill and adorned by a soaring obelisk and several Civil War-related statues, towered over the sea of gravestones below.  A large bronze bust of Lincoln sat on a pedestal, guarding the entrance to the fort-like tomb—it’s nose bright and shiny from the millions who have rubbed it for luck over the years.  I was no different.  Not that Lincoln had had a lucky fate as it were—but if there was any supernatural favor to be derived from the likeness of such an historical giant, who was I to shun it?

I approached the main entrance to the granite tomb.  Standing before the locked thick, metal door, I placed my hand on its surface—mentally projecting myself through the dark interior corridors where Abraham, Mary, and three of their sons lay in final repose.  The energy that returned to me through my palm, down my arm, ensconcing my shoulder blades—was one I had seldom experienced.  It wasn’t that of death, sadness, or loss—but of a solemn reverence of touching on something much deeper than myself and the small time frame in which my life currently inhabits.

I slowly walked around the curves of the monument, gently touching the rough surface—until I came to the back of the tomb.  Iron gates displaying the wreath-enclosed Lincoln surname protected a lovely stained glass inner window on the back wall, behind which the remains of one of the greatest men in history lay only feet before me.  For a few surreal moments the realization that it was just Lincoln and I there together in the quiet cemetery morning hit me.  The sun had just reached the treetops, throwing dusty beams of light across the manicured lawn.  There was nothing to say, nothing to do, but stand there and feel—take it all in.

Lincoln’s spirit has been seen many times over the centuries in a variety of places (including his tomb).  I don’t doubt this.   Factoring out deception and imagination, some sightings may simply be residuals (energy patterns imprinted on time, playing themselves out over and over); others may be the actual intelligent spirit of President Lincoln, occasionally checking up on what he cared about the most in life.  But I think there are moments where we, as ordinary people, can reach out and tune into those from history who inspire us and draw them to us—even for just a moment—no matter their location in this world (or the next).  While usually private about his beliefs, evidence has been found that Abraham Lincoln was a man of spiritual (and possibly mystical) constitution.  I am certain this concept would have agreed with him—and indeed he may have experienced supernatural and inspirational connection with those who had gone before him when staring down the troubles and extraordinarily major decisions that marked his mission while on this earth.

After a few minutes I turned and walked down a flight of stairs to the to the base of the hill wherein sat the the temporary receiving vaults used to hold Lincoln’s body during construction of the permanent tomb.  In actuality, his body was moved several times over the years (even nearly kidnapped) before it was finally laid to rest in 1874.  The receiving vault was nothing but a small, plain mausoleum built into the hillside—gates protecting the rows of individual crypts, which were covered in rust and a mildewy-green substance.  The floor was littered with decades’ worth of pennies thrown in by the many visitors paying their respects. Standing before the gates, I pondered the amount of people since Lincoln’s death in 1865 that stood in that very spot weeping, praying, and contemplating.

As I left the cemetery that morning, I felt that I had experienced something significant (as likely many others had before me); something I’ll carry with me the rest of my life.

*It should be noted that Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield Illinois (where the Lincoln Tomb is located) is a large cemetery of tree-lined rolling hills and winding pathways.  There are many lesser-known historical figures buried within its gates, each with a roadside marker; and there are some impressive war memorials at this location.  A small informational center stands next to the Tomb (which happened to be closed during my visit) as well. It’s worth taking another hour or two to explore the rest of what this historic burial ground has to offer.

For more information:

http://www.illinoishistory.gov/hs/lincoln_tomb.htm

http://www.oakridgecemetery.org/tour.html

Springfield is full of historic sites mostly centering around Abraham Lincoln.  For more information on those visit:

http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/Things-To-Do/Attractions/Historic-Sites.aspx

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