Earlier last week I took a short trip to Baltimore’s Loudon Park Cemetery, where my great-grandparents, three of my great-grandfather’s siblings, and his mother are buried. The Baltimore area received about three and a half inches of rain over the weekend (from mid-day Friday to Sunday evening), and, since the cemetery floods, I wanted to see if my great-great-grandmother Susan was affected.

I said to a cousin a few months ago that my great-great-grandmother and her daughter have probably never been as visited in their unlife as they’ve been this year. Once I found out the cemetery floods, specifically their section of the cemetery, I took it upon myself to go down there from time to time, make sure they’re okay, and clean up the site if necessary. It’s not my responsibility, I know — I knew no one here — but it’s still important to me, and while I’m there I’ll visit the other family sites scattered throughout the cemetery.

She (and her daughter Isabelle, and Isabelle’s husband, and five others) was not. The flag I had left for Isabelle’s son-in-law Phil Stallings at Veterans Day stood intact and its colors were vibrant.

Grave of my great-great-grandmother Susan Gardner and family at Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery

There were, however, signs that there had been flooding recently, though not due to the storm; there was a large log resting on the side of the Whatcoat hill among the headstones, as though it belonged there, which it definitely did not.

Even covered with fallen leaves, the area that had been afflicted by the flooding this year — an area I’ve taken to calling “the dead zone” — looked strange and different when compared with higher ground.

I wasn’t even the only person to have visited the area recently, even though it’s blocked off by cinder blocks and caution tape. Several graves in the dead zone were decorated for Christmas.

Grave decorated for Christmas at Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery

This wasn’t the only one; there were also wreaths. They brought a touch of color to a bleak hillside. I felt both happy and sad to them. Happy, because people care. Sad, because no one wants to see where their loved ones lie in state like this. This headstone was fine, the ground was firm though the grass had been choked to death under the water, but just down the hill, about six feet to the right of where I stood was a grave that had collapsed in the flooding.

While there, I also looked for two other graves — Babe Ruth’s father, whose grave is along the same road as and uphill from my great-great-grandmother Susan, and the writer H.L. Mencken, whose family plot I’ve driven past several times when leaving the cemetery but had never looked for.

Grave of H,L, Mencken at Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery

I hope, in the New Year, I won’t have to visit as often to make sure everything’s fine. The Whatcoat hill will probably never look “normal” to me again, the road past my great-great-grandmother’s grave may never be repaired, but I hope to one day see the grass green and vibrant again and, most of all, to see the place dry and no lakes of runoff water.

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