James S. Sherman

(Originally visited 23 August 1997.)

James Sherman

The usual pattern for traveling to these graves is to find some reason to visit someone who happens to live near a grave or two. That way the people think I’m just being social, when, in reality, I’ve just found an excuse to get out on the road and pick up another dead president.

This trip was different. It’s a trip I’d rather not have made, but am very proud to have done it. This is not the site for that story. Let’s just say it involved a woman, love and honor. It’ll produce a fine tragic opera someday.

So, instead of a joyous journey, this was rather a gray one despite the fine August weather. The elderly man behind the desk at the visitor’s center just off the New York Thruway was very helpful in pointing out on the xeroxed map just where to go. “Just follow this road and Forest Hill cemetery is right about here,” and his finger pointed to the desk about an inch beyond the map’s edge. “Don’t worry, you can’t miss it.”

Yeah, I’ve heard that before.

But, he was correct. After driving through downtown Utica, which was barren on this late Saturday afternoon, there lay the cemetery. I drove through a monstrous stone and iron gate and began my search.

The usual pattern for traveling to these graves, once one finds the cemetery, is to head for the highest point, while looking for suspiciously ostentatious tombs. As I drove I noticed some couples out walking through the grounds and silently cursed them for reminding me what I’d just left behind.

As I arrived at the summit I was greeted by a spectacular view of Utica and the Mohawk valley in the setting sun. And then I met the goal of this side trip. Indeed, Vice President Sherman is buried at the highest point in the cemetery. I walked up to the doors of the small mausoleum shown here and looked inside to see the actual crypt below a stained glass window positioned to catch the rising sun.

Driving back through the deserted town, I did not feel the oppression on my soul quite as keenly. Was it the view of the valley? Was it the success of achieving my goal?

Why does visiting a cemetery reaffirm the fact that life goes on?

James Sherman

About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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