Honoring Ancestors, Sitka’s Orthodox Cemetery

Today’s walk was not energetic, it was contemplative.  I walked through Sitka’s Orthodox Cemetery.  A couple of months ago someone suggested that I walk through the Cemetery and post some pictures.  I didn’t get around to it until I met Bob Sam on my walk yesterday.

During that walk through Sitka National Park I took a break, sitting on a bench.  Soon Bob Sam sat next to me.  We’ve known each other for 30 years but hadn’t had a chance to talk for quite a while.  We sat enjoying the sun on our faces for over an hour talking about our lives in Sitka.  Lots of people walked by, many nodded.  Some said hi to two old men sitting on a bench.

For the past 30 years Bob Sam has taken care of the Orthodox Cemetery in Sitka.  He keeps the ground clear and prunes the branches of the trees so light can get in.  Bob sees taking care of graves as a way of taking care of his culture, his history and his ancestors.  Bob has taken pictures of each grave with his camera that has a GPS and has each grave located on a map.  It’s a rewarding job, although sometimes frustrating, like a couple of years ago when some kids vandalized the cemetery several times.  The police helped Bob right the stones and crosses and finally captured the kids.

We didn’t only talk about the graves.  We talked about storytelling, theater and community radio (of course), but Bob’s passion for tending the graves of the ancestors was an important thread throughout the conversation.  We finally got up and went to my car and I gave Bob a lift to the cemetery.   He invited me to take some pictures and I remembered the suggestion I had gotten a couple of months ago.  By the time we got there the light was not at all right.  It was too late in the day and the cemetery was too much in the shade.  But today was a good day, bright overcast, and I went back, took a slow walk and several pictures.

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