Caretaker Terry Miller and author Rachael Hanel
“I like to visit cemeteries when I travel – this is usually the first thing I do once I get some free time.”
from Rachael Hanel’s blog, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down (http://rachaelhanel.me )
Calvary Cemetery is made for visitors. Some visitors appear daily, usually walking around the grounds or destination driven to a specific resting place. Other visitors show up annually or less frequently, maybe Memorial Day or at Christmas.
And then there are visitors who grace the grounds for moments of peace or spiritual connections. After all, Calvary Cemetery is consecrated ground; a peaceful place fit for reflection.
And every great once in a while, Calvary receives a celebrity. So it was recently when local author Rachael Hanel stopped by to see Caretaker Terry Miller.
Rachael’s autobiographical book, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter, is the story of her childhood in the Waseca area. Her father was the caretaker of a collection of cemeteries in the area.
Her story is about growing up, about cemeteries, about funerals and about how we come to terms with death. Let’s face it – sooner or later we all attend funerals or mourn a family member or friend. The book is well worth the read from many perspectives.
Of course, being a caretaker’s daughter AND an author who writes about the lifestyle is an instant passport to celebrity guest status at Calvary Cemetery. So Rachael’s visit was a special time for Terry to get to “talk shop.”
Terry’s wife, Deb, had read Rachael’s book in the recent past and was captivated by all the commonalities between Terry’s life and Rachael’s memoir. Since Rachael is now an Assistant Professor at Minnesota State University – Mankato, it was probably just a matter of time before she and Terry met.
For Terry and Rachael, it was a rare chance to talk about things you’d probably only discuss with someone “in the business” and about the people they mutually knew. For a spectator…well, it was a chance to learn. As they sat in Terry’s cemetery office, they talked about their mutual dislike for artificial flowers, and the best and worst parts of being a caretaker.
“Dis-internment…that’s definitely the worst job,” said Terry.
“Just not sure what you’re going to find,” Rachael quipped back.
The two probably could have talked all day without a hitch, covering everything from pruning equipment to how fun it was to talk with people who “got it.” Both of them spent plenty of time with their caretaker fathers, playing on cemetery grounds or mowing grass on endless summer afternoons.
If you haven’t had a chance to read We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down or explore Rachael’s blog, you have an opportunity for some great entertainment.
A special thanks to Rachael for her time, and a special thanks to Amber Power, Interim Associate Development Officer at Minnesota State University – Mankato, for arranging Rachael’s visit to Calvary. Rachael’s book is available at Barnes & Noble or online from Amazon.com.