Origin Story: Visiting Ancestral Graves

Yesterday, I visited Old Dalnottar Cemetery, Glasgow to pay my respects at the family grave. I laid down a wreath procured from a friendly Glaswegian flower shoppe, took a bus to the nearest stop (with the assistance of an absolutely lovely older woman whose parents were buried in the same cemetery — who waited with me to be sure I got the right bus), scrubbed and cleaned the stone, and took some photos beside it (something of a new tradition in my family).  Additionally, it was confirmed that my hair has most certainly “gone native”.

The names of my direct descendants line the stone, none of whom I had the pleasure of meeting in this life… but all of whom I know through the stories, anecdotes, and fastidious work of my relatives to maintain their presence and stories through oral tradition and careful documentation.

I have not known them in the living sense, no. But for the memories detailed by all members of my family who did, I love and respect them as members of theirs — and for their contributions to my own story, my path, and my character.

To Sydney Gilchrist Abbott and Margaret McAllister Abbott, Papa and Mama, as they were lovingly called, I owe my Father’s outstandingly kind and loving character. To Thomas Abbott and Isabel Gilchrist Abbott, I owe our family’s legacy in the Scottish community. I am proud to be their great and great-great grandchild, to carry their name, and, in the case of Papa, to attend his alma mater, The University of Glasgow.

Planted at the base of the stone, an elegant metal plaque bears the name of my great-aunt, who recently passed. She was a fixture of love and light not only for her immediate family, but for all those who touched her life in times of their need. I owe to her efforts immense gratitude for my Father’s incredibly high moral caliber and personal strength — for keeping his love and faith in family alive and well always. I am perhaps most proud to have known her for all of her beauty, inside and out, something the plaque captures well: “loving, gracious, cherished”.

Older Scottish cemeteries carry with them an ominous appeal — the dark shade of the trees, lush grass, and wet moss accent a carpet of fallen leaves and provide hushing acoustic resonance to the place of reflection. But they are a place to remember the love — and sustain it — which exists in all of us, respecting those who have fallen to time.


Published by

Caroline C. Evans Abbott

I am a rising Master of Research (M.Res) English Literature candidate at the University of Glasgow, incoming MFA Writing candidate at Sarah Lawrence College, and a recent Honors Program graduate of the B.A. Studio Art program at Albertus Magnus College (2015). From 2015 - 2016, I served as an English, Writing, and Creative Enrichment Tutor for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, a Native American Reservation in Brooks, California, and from 2014 - 2015 as a Writing Associate (Tutor) in the Albertus Magnus College Writing Center. I am based in West London.

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