“The man who dies rich dies in disgrace.” – Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie was born into poverty, turned steel into gold and then gave away 90% of his fortune in the last 18 years of his life. Of all the places in the world he could spend eternity, he chose the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I wonder at such things – why here? Why not his beloved Scotland? Why not Lenox, Massachusetts, where he spent his last couple of years? The only way to know is to visit the place.
Walking around you realize that Sleepy Hollow is a beautiful spot, and likely was peaceful once, before cars and sirens and encroaching development squeezed the solitude right out of the place. But deep in the heart of the cemetery, way up on the hill, you find it grows relatively still, even now. And this is where you’ll find Carnegie.
Looking around at the grand celebrations of wealth displayed in death at Sleepy Hollow (You see? I mattered!) I was struck by the simple and beautiful Celtic Cross gravestone rising amongst the trees at Andrew Carnegie’s burial plot. Granite ledge behind him and a gentle sloping hill in front. Peace.
Wealth bought him elbow room in death, and wisdom guided him to use it in the most simple, dignified way. I should think he made a point of being placed at arms length from the wealthy posers of the day. He was especially good at calling them out for what they were:
“There is no class as pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.”
I’m not particularly interested in being buried in one spot. I think I’d rather have my ashes scattered to the winds and sea – to be an eternal traveller in this world. But I see the value of having a place where people can visit you, as I visited Carnegie this week.
Carnegie became larger than life when he gave away his fortune before death. That Celtic Cross serves as a compass in his absence, pointing the way for the generations who followed him. Quietly reminding us to do enough in our life that others might want to invest a bit of their own brief lives to visit you long after your gone.