Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)…

Inspired by the amazing Renae Rude – The Paranormalist, who is a fellow lover of all things autumn and spooky, I decided to begin a new autumn tradition of adopting one or two gravesites. 

In my mind, the idea is to choose an older grave, perhaps forgotten (of course how does one really know this?) that may also need to be tended to. The two local cemeteries that I chose happen to be fairly well cared for. I would think you’d want to choose a grave that really speaks to you, either metaphorically or literally. As someone who finds cemeteries fascinating and enjoys spending time and taking photos in them, I found it hard to not just gravitate toward the interesting and most beautiful graves. But at the same time, I didn’t want to ignore those feelings. Lastly, a requirement for me was to be able to identify a name on the marker. This is often hard to do in cemeteries. You might argue that a grave that has lost the identity of the body resting there would be more in need of adoption, but for my first experience at this, I really wanted to be able to connect with a name as well. It is also my hope that after this initial post I’ll be able to research genealogy and share that with you as well. After selecting my graves, I’d commit to returning every so often throughout the season, keeping their soul in my thoughts and praying that they are at peace. 

So this last Saturday I was very excited to set out to adopt two graves for an early autumn kickoff. I wanted to choose one grave at two different cemeteries. It was an absolutely beautiful day and I was honored that Joe was willing to accompany me. (Normally this would be a little weird for him.) We went and picked up two beautiful bunches of flowers for a total of $10 and headed for Linn Cemetery in Wentzville, Missouri. Linn Cemetery is a place I’ve visited a few times in the last few years. Click HERE for photos from my first visit to Linn Cemetery.


Johnnie Michel, son of Henry and Matilda Michel, July 5, 1879 – January 21, 1884

Johnnie was four and a half years old at the time of his death. He was buried near two or three other Michels, but we found no Henry or Matilda Michel (his parents, according to the marker) near Johnnie. We wondered why the parents weren’t buried here, or at least nearby. Did life take them somewhere else after this loss? Did they have other children that lived hopefully longer lives? And what happened to Johnnie? Was it sickness? An accident? 

Here’s a close up of the writing below the dates. 

To the best of my ability, it appears to read “Here ____ our Little Johnnie ____ his still and silent… ?? …till we meet again. God has called him home, he thought it best.”

I visited a bit with Johnnie, wondering out loud about his story and asked who the other Michels buried near him were. I promised to return a few times and keep him in my thoughts, hoping and praying he is at peace. 

Our next stop was the Gumbo Cemetery in Chesterfield, Missouri. I had come across this cemetery on accident only the day before. I was excited to stop by and check it out. 


Clara I. Gegenbauer, March 29, 1884 – March 17, 1889

Clara’s grave is up on a scenic hill along a tree line. Inscribed on her marker is the message “A voice we loved has fled.” That really touched me. Like Johnnie Michel, Clara died just short of her fifth birthday. In the photo it almost appears to be taken at dusk, due to the canopy of tree limbs overhead. Clara rests among seven other graves that are clearly grouped as a family. Clara’s grave stands proudly on the front left corner in the group. From my first step into the cemetery, this group of markers off in the distance and on top of the hill caught my attention. 

I visited with Clara, pondering the same questions that go through one’s mind when you see the resting place of any young child. I also left her with the same promise I gave Johnnie. 



So was I meant to be drawn to the graves of two children, approximately the same age? Or did I subconsciously choose a little girl out of fairness after already choosing Johnnie? I also think it’s interesting that Clara was born just months after Johnnie died. At the risk of creating a dramatic plot that doesn’t exist, I wonder if there is some kind of connection between the two, whether it’s between the two families, or a great plan designed from the other side. What an interesting thought. Ha! Maybe I should write a book. 

I’d love to know what you think about this new tradition of mine. If you find it interesting, be sure to check out Renae Rude’s fascinating post in the related articles below. Stay tuned in the coming months as I hope to piece together just a bit of the history of these two families. This will be my first attempt at genealogy, so wish me luck.


Related Articles:

Graveyards, churchyards and cemeteries: spending an afternoon with the dead.

Graveyards, churchyards and cemeteries: spending an afternoon with the dead. (Renae Rude – The Paranormalist)

Click here for more cemetery posts, or visit the "Cemeteries" category on the right. (Big Séance)

Click here for more cemetery posts, or visit the “Cemeteries” category on the right. (Big Séance)

About Patrick Keller

Patrick Keller is an educator, blogger, and the host of the Big Séance Podcast, which is a place for paranerds to have an open discussion on all things paranormal, but specifically topics like ghosts and hauntings, paranormal research, spirit communication, psychics and mediums, and life after death. He’s the founder of the now inactive Missouri Spirit Seekers and has spent a lot of time experimenting with spirit communication tools and techniques, such as EVP. Patrick also has a passion for spending hours at a time in cemeteries and loves cemetery photography. Visit! View all posts by Patrick Keller

19 responses to “Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)…

  • Heather

    I love this! I have always thought of cemeteries as peaceful and beautiful. I like to read headstones and wonder about the lives of the ones they belong to. A gentleman passed in my current home and his spirit was still hanging around when we moved in. Very loving and protective. I know where he is buried and I would like to go visit his grave and pay him respects.

    • Patrick

      I have always felt the same way, Heather… from the time I used to hang out in the cemetery as a little kid with a lunch that my grandma packed for me. Who needs living friends? 😉

  • Renae Rude - The Paranormalist

    Thank you for the link, Patrick. I’m glad the idea appealed to you … you really are a perfect candidate for thins kind of activity. I remember being drawn to your graveyard posts when I first found your blog. You do a beautiful job with the photos.

    I look forward to hearing anything you can find out about the histories of Johnnie & Clara. (And I completely understand the compulsion to make a story from the inscriptions.)

    • Patrick

      I think I’ll be ready to post a follow up on Johnnie in the next couple of days. Lots of information, but unfortunately nothing about Johnnie himself.

      Thank you for the compliment on the photos. I’ve never been a photographer or much for holding a for real camera. Amazing how the modern iPhone makes us non-professionals feel like an accomplished photographer. 🙂 I feel like every time I visit a cemetery my shots get better and better.

  • spiritchild1972

    Hiya Pal, I don’t know if it’s the same in the US as it is in the UK and NZ etc…but often the parents were buried with the children but couldn’t afford to have a stone themselves or add to it. When you lost your children you could get loans or grants to pay for their burial or you often the parents would save a penny or so with each pay they got for funerals because child mortality was so high in those days, they pretty much expected children to die. It would often cost them not having heat or medicine but these parents were determined to send their future dead children into the Kingdom of Heaven (I say that because religion was key for them) but when they themselves died they felt the surname was up on the headstone and they were together,so it didn’t matter that their names weren’t on the headtsones. If parents were poor they could get loans from the church to pay for the burial and then they would pay back the church every time they got paid again often at the expense of going hungry or not having heat (Good old church doing God’s work aye? Coz God would want grieving parents having to pay back a church of God for the burial of their beloved child lol) While Spirits don’t hang about their graves, if someone is paying it attention or they feel a connection with the person looking at their grave site, they can make themselves known. Otherwise there will be a reason you choose those particular graves. I hope you figure out way. It’s a wonderful thing your doing because we all deserve to be remembered, even in death.

    • Patrick

      Haha. Spiritchild, you and I are a real pair of nerds. 🙂 Fortunately, I’ve found out that even though at least one of these families started out poor, for the most part the remaining members lived long lives and appeared to be successful in their work. Johnnie’s parents and siblings are buried in other cemeteries. His father is buried nearby in a local town. The larger head stone behind Johnnie’s is actually the head stone of both of his grandparents. That warmed my heart to know they were close by.

      • spiritchild1972

        Oh that’s wonderful news. Things must be different in the US then. I would love to know what you found out. And yes I think I’m outing myself as a nerd once and for all lol come join with us lol

  • linktay

    I really enjoyed this post, what a wonderful idea!

  • Patrick

    Thanks, Linktay. Again, I can’t take credit for the inspiration. Make sure you give Renae a shout out. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by again, Linktay.

  • Gary Leigh

    Great post, but wouldn’t put the Empath friendly logo on it 😉

  • notsofancynancy

    Once again Patrick I find this fascinating and since I have a little extra time I came to read more. Then I had to check out Renae! So little time so much fascinating stuff to read! Thanks for taking the time to adopt these two souls and writing about it I am fascinated.

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