Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Staying Buried...and Ultrarunning

As an Ultrarunner, I guess it's fair to say that I am concerned, to a point, about immortality. That's because my running not only has to do with loving back country running, but also the physical fitness aspects as well.

See, heart disease and diabetes runs in my family, particularly among the male members, so I have more motivation than most to be fit. For example, my dad had his first heart attack at around age 50 and was an old man, physically, at the time of his death at age 66.  On the other hand, I fully expect to run an ultra on my 66th birthday.

So the fitness motivation sorta relates to delaying--to a point--immortality. That's why I was disturbed last week when I ran through the local Brown's Mill Cemetery half a mile from my home and saw the freshly disturbed grave of Janet Christiansen Abaroa, murdered back in 2005. Her body had just been exhumed to gather additional evidence. From the local newspaper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion:

Janet Christiansen Abaroa was found apparently stabbed to death in her Durham [NC] home in late April 2005. Her husband, Raven Abaroa, was charged in her death earlier this year. He remains incarcerated at the Durham County Detention Facility.

Although most of her immediate family lives in Virginia, Janet was buried in Brown's Mill Cemetery near Greencastle...she was buried in a large family plot, next to the body of her sister, who died years ago of leukemia.

The closest marker to Abaroa's grave simply reads "Christiansen." There is no stone bearing her full name and the dates of her birth and death. The family will likely install a headstone after the case is finally closed.

I mused a bit about our mores and rules about disinterring people. It's OK to dig somebody up for forensic reasons, because it's for a good purpose and the body is then put back afterwards. And it's OK to dig up mummies, say, from Egypt's age of the pyramids (although maybe that's changing).  But while it'd not be cool to dig up, say, President Lincoln, King Arthur's tomb would (probably?) be fair game.

So somewhere in that time continuum it starts out as a no-no to dig up graves (unless for law enforcement), but as you work backwards, at some point it seems that a grave ceases to be so much a grave as it is a historical site worthy of investigation.  It becomes OK because the science  makes it worthwhile to disturb a grave.

I'm rambling here, so I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the jury is probably still out on where grave robbing stops and history begins.  I don't hold any special belief in the sanctity of a buried corpse; after all, the essence of the person is long gone. 

I believe in the necessity in this case of exhuming the body.  But it bothers me symbolically that Janet Marie Christiansen's memory? spirit? has been disturbed. 

When I run my last ultra and die, I plan to be cremated and my ashes scattered.  But I also hope to figuratively rest in peace.


  1. If we do have spirits, I expect Janet Abaroa's to be restless until her killer is prevented from repeating the crime. If disturbing her remains helps, it seems justified.

    Thanks for your insight on this. I've been following the case since it happened, back in 2005. I hope they have learned something that will help solve it.

  2. Ronni,

    I will run by there in a day or so and place some fresh flowers from my gardens. I will hope for justice and keep Janet Christiansen Abaroa in my thoughts.


  3. Gary, my heart broke upon hearing the family had such a difficult decision to make because of all they have to deal with daily. This was something that was not taken lightly. The family has remained strong and vigilant since Janet's brutal murder, but yet remain so kind and loving faced with such a tragedy and all the emotional turmoil that goes along with seeking justice.

    Janet loved to run, play soccer, she loved her family and her son and she truly loved life.

    I think it's sweet of you to put fresh flowers from your garden on her grave and hope for justice for her and her unborn child and all that hurt for her loss.