Oh, don't you laugh when the hearse goes by

Or you will be the next to die

They wrap you up in bloody sheets

And then they bury you six feet deep

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out

The worms play pinochle on your snout

There's a big green bugs with big green eyes

They go in your nose and out your eyes

And then you mold away.

Child's ditty

Obituaries and cemeteries are topics we've wanted to write about but thought they were to heavy and dark. We got to thinking maybe we could make it more on the light side, so we're giving it a try.

When we were kids we heard the chant above and maybe even did it ourselves because we remember the "worms crawl in and the worms crawl out" part. We sure didn't want to have anything to do with graveyards -- they were spooky and scary, sinister and ghostly. We didn't think we'd ever understand why people went there just to visit.

Now we enjoy walking through cemeteries in small towns all over Kansas. We read the messages, figure out the ages back in the 1800s and even longer ago. The stones mark the resting place of families and tell their history. Families died during epidemics of disease or when tragedy struck.

The monuments are fascinating. They range from large and elaborate to small, simple stones, even mausoleums and beautiful iron crosses.

Pictures were fashionable in the past. We're glad to see them coming back. It is surprising the pictures of couples from more than 100 years ago are still in good shape.

We have spent time finding our relatives' graves. Jim's parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are in cemeteries in southwest Kansas, the Fowler and Cimarron area. Jim's brother Cliff rests in a small country cemetery northeast of Glen Elder.

Opal's family members are in Mount Hope Cemetery, Ellis, including her brother James and sister Kathleen.

Together we have an infant daughter, Nancy Jean, born and died March 14, 1950, in Mount Allen Cemetery, Hays.

When we locate family we feel a connection to the past; memories and stories come to mind.

Cemeteries are usually very quiet and peaceful, and especially beautiful. In the warm months of the year, flowers are blooming and birds are singing. A perfect place to pay respect to loved ones who have passed on.

We enjoyed reading the book "Cemetery Stories" by Katherine Ramsland. She tells interesting stories and answers questions a person often has about cemeteries and more.

Changing the subject a bit: What's an obituary? According to the dictionary it's an announcement that someone has died, published in a newspaper in the form of a brief biography. What's a biography? An account of a person's life written by someone else.

When the newspaper comes, the first page we turn to is the obituary page. It's easy to find, usually on the same page each day. We really do appreciate that.

Why do we go to the obit page first? We don't want to miss reading about the death of a friend before the funeral. We get the paper in our rural mailbox about noon the next day. It's happened before we didn't know in time to express our personal sympathy to the family.

When my dad passed away we found a stack of obituaries in his dresser drawer. Each one had the month and day of death but not the year. We are so glad the year is printed in obituaries now-a-days.

Reading an obituary from the top to bottom can be very interesting. It tells the story of the person's life.

Families were large. Many times the sibling count is up to a baker's dozen or more. The numbers of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren is impressive. Wow, those grandparents had a lot of birthdays to remember considering in-laws, spouses, cousins and more. The numbers could be enormous.

When someone asks "How are you today?" we usually answer "just fine." Here's a couple of new responses we've heard lately: "Just fine; glad to be on this side of grass" or maybe "Doing fine, growing old sure beats the alternative -- dying young."

We will end with this verse:

I get up each morning and dust off my wits,

Pick up the paper and read the obits,

If my name is missing, I know I'm not dead,

So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.

Jim and Opal Flinn, Ellis, are members of the Generations Advisory Group.