Last week I received a request for a photograph of a headstone in my local cemetery (Union Cemetery, Brentwood, CA) through the Find A Grave website. Unfortunately by the time I could respond to it someone had already claimed the job.
Because I was planning on doing some work at the cemetery anyway I wrote an email to the woman who claimed the request and inquired if she had taken the shot and volunteered to do it if she would allow me.
In a matter of minutes she responded to my idea and informed me she wouldn't be able to get to the cemetery before Sunday so we agreed I would have the honor of fulfilling the photo request.
I got all of my gear together and took off to the cemetery but when I got there to ask for the location of the gravesite one of the caretakers informed me someone had been there earlier in the morning asking about the same headstones.
I surmised that there was a third individual who wanted to take this photograph and they were "jumping the claim!" Undaunted because my original purpose was to canvas the cemetery and systematically shoot headstones throughout the cemetery the caretaker gave me a ride to the site and I shot the headstone anyway since I was given permission by the original person who claimed the request.
I noticed the area where the two headstones were located had some interesting monuments and decided I would put in an hour or two documenting the plot of gravesites. I wasn't sure if someone had already done it but I've learned over the past year most people will shoot a few stones and I could still provide other people with a photo of their ancestor's burial site if I just took the photos and worried about if I'm duplicating them later.
Sure enough when I got back home, the "claim jumper" uploaded her photos but I felt it only right that I should upload mine because I was given permission and therefore had a responsibility to complete the task.
The next day I received one of the greatest rewards a person could ask for when the woman who requested the photo's sent me a thank you letter.
"I wanted to thank you for taking the beautiful photo's of my brother and sister's headstone for me. They are great, so clear just wonderful; you do great work and I am sure there is a special place in heaven for people like you that do such nice things for others.
Gene was killed in a boating accident at the delta and Caren had had cancer for a couple of years. She was also the harbor master at the marina where he was killed. I live in Merced and it is hard for me to get out there with work and taking care of my 86 year old mother so do no i appreciate what you done for me"
A lot of times we forget how gratifying it can be just to give of ourselves and our time. With Debi sharing the history of her family and how much it meant for her to have those photos I'm glad I took the time to follow through on that request.
I'm also reminded that I must continue to document the Union Cemetery whenever I get some free time.