I'm one of those people who likes graveyards. I wasn't, when I was younger. Graveyards freaked me out, because death was this horrible, fear-filled thing to be avoided at all costs.
I'm a volunteer at a local animal shelter where I walk dogs once a week. There used to be a walking trail at the shelter, but they're expanding, and so we dogwalkers have to walk somewhere else. Instead of the walking trail, we've been going over to the cemetery. There's a road that goes between the two sections of the cemetery. It's about a half-hour walk, if we're enjoying the scenery.
That's what's great about dogs. For them, it is a journey and not a destination. They don't care where we're going, as long as we're going. They just love the process.
So, once a week, I take one dog at a time, until all of the dogs have been walked, and we head over to the graveyard, and stroll down the road. They sniff where the other dogs have clearly been (and those dogs' owners didn't clean up after).
And I look at headstones and calculate ages. Most of the headstones along the fence where I'm walking the dogs are old, dating back to the late 1800s or early 1900's. what's interesting, though, is how old most of those people were when they died. MOST of them lived to be older than 50. The life expectancy back in those days was right around 45, but not because adults were all dying before they got to that half-century mark, but rather because there were so many very young children dying.
In the book, "A Life of Her Own", about growing up in France at the turn of the century, Emilie Carles talks about how country people didn't really consider a child a person until he was five, because most children didn't reach the age of five, and it was just too hard to mourn so much. Or something along those lines. As such, our general notion about life-expectancies has been very wrong. People back in those days had a very good chance of living a very long life, if they could make it into adulthood.
As I was walking through the graveyard and reading headstones, I found a couple that were very peculiar and concerning, and I'm thinking, perhaps, I have proof that vampires do exist ... or that there are some REALLY old people running around that the Guinness Book of World Records has missed.
This one, disturbingly, has a birth date but no date of death. If Mabel is still with us, she's 135 years old. Maybe she's changed her last name to Cullen.