Congratulations to Debbie our featured Volunteer of the Month for December, 2020! We’d like to recognize Debbie for her volunteer work in Texas and Arkansas, where in total she has added over 131,000 headstones photos.
Debbie discovered Find a Grave when she was researching family. She joined and started creating memorials, adding photos of family members and their gravestones. She found a community who welcomed and encouraged her as she sought to discover new family members. Find a Grave became a place to share her extensive photo albums and also a new hobby when she wasn’t even looking! In the midst of adding memorials, virtual flowers and photographing graves over all these years, Debbie has connected families without even knowing it. In her own words:
One experience I fondly recall is the time I was walking rows and observed two ladies walking quickly front to back and side to side, back and forth, looking for what I guessed was a grave. One lady approached me, waving her iPad, asking me if I had come across the grave she was looking for. She showed me a picture on her iPad, and that was the stone she and her daughter were looking for in the cemetery. As luck would have it, that was a picture I had posted from a previous visit, and I actually had a general idea where the grave was located. We visited for a few minutes, she told me she and her daughter had driven a long distance to visit the grave, after finding the picture online. They had not known where the deceased had been laid to rest. Isn’t that awesome?
I discovered family members really appreciate the virtual cemetery provided by Find a Grave. Those that cannot personally visit graves of loved ones have expressed such gratefulness to have photos of gravestones available. I personally experienced that feeling recently. I lost my husband this year, and was awaiting word from the DFW National Cemetery of his gravestone installation. To my surprise and joy, I found that his stone had been photographed and posted to Find a Grave even before the letter of notice arrived. Volunteering for Find a Grave has been a rewarding experience for me, and I am so grateful for the site.
We love to hear these stories about members helping others. Headstones can provide that much needed information but can also be a place where we can try to heal. While having a look at some headstone photos Debbie uploaded, these photos leapt out at us. We were astounded by the beauty of these flower arrangements and thought of the family members that so lovingly placed them there.
It makes Debbie’s day when she receives a note from a family member. She’s especially touched by notes like this one, “I just wanted to thank you for putting the photo of my father’s grave on the Find a Grave website. Today is his birthday. He is buried in Texas, and I am in Pittsburgh. The photo you posted is the only reference I can find to him online, and it is letting me feel, in some small way, like I am there with him. Thank you so much. It really means a lot to me.” The thought that she is helping family members inspires her to keep going. Debbie shares some touching verses about families and cemeteries in a poem called “This Is A Cemetery” on her profile:
Lives are commemorated,
deaths are recorded,
families are reunited,
memories are made tangible,
and love is undisguised.
This is a cemetery.
Communities accord respect,
families bestow reverence,
historians seek information
and our heritage is thereby
Testimonies of devotion, pride and remembrance are carved in stone to pay warm tribute to accomplishments and to the life, not the death, of a loved one. The cemetery is homeland for family memorials that are a sustaining source of comfort to the living.
A cemetery is a history of people, a perpetual record of yesterday and sanctuary of peace and quiet today. A cemetery exists because every life is worth loving and remembering, always.
~ Author unknown ~
Debbie, thank you for sharing this beautiful poem. Our accolades to you for your extraordinary work in cemeteries! We are so glad that you are a Find a Grave member and appreciate all your efforts in recording and memorializing those that have passed.
We welcome your suggestions for Volunteer of the Month. If you’d like to submit a volunteer for consideration in future months, please send an email with details of their work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Find a Grave Team