Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Grave

The importance of stories. This was drawn from an afternoon shared with my father toward the end of his life and my sharing in turn with my youngest daughter.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. Psalms 103:15-16

“It’s supposed to be right here somewhere.”

The two men inspected the tombstones, working their way across an older part of the cemetery. The markers in this section were small, lichen-encrusted slabs of marble, a foot wide and half again as tall.

“Daddy, are you sure we’re looking in the right place?”

“This is where she said it was; third row from the back, but she couldn’t tell which plot. There was a water-stain on the page of the register.”

The old man moved slowly, eyes straining at each weather-worn inscription.

“Here it is.”

The son moved to stand beside his father and looked down.


DIED NOV 3 1926

The old man knelt, pain knifing through arthritic hip joints, and with the wire brush he carried, began to clean the small stone.

The car crept along the asphalt path. The little girl looked to the right where her father pointed. Rows of weather-stained gravestones stretched before her.

“Look on your side. Which one looks different?”

“They all look alike, Daddy.”

“Keep looking.”

She spotted it at the same moment he stopped the car; not quite white, but standing out plainly from the gray slabs around it.

“There it is.”

He opened the trunk of the car and reaching in, came out with a wire brush. She carried the white silk rose, and together they approached the grave.


DIED NOV 3 1926

“Which grandma is this, Daddy?”

“Your Papaw Ray’s mama. She died just two weeks after he was born.”

“She has the same name as Aunt Deb.”

“Yes,” her father replied, “he named her after his mother. He never knew his mom or even where she was buried until ten or twelve years ago. He and I came out here one Saturday afternoon in the fall and he found her grave.”

“He kept it cleaned off?”

“Whenever I came home, we would come out here.”

She hugged her father, tears filling her eyes.

“Daddy, did he miss her like we miss him?”

“Sure he did. I believe it hurt him not having any memory of her. We don't understand how blessed we are, sometimes.”

As she pushed the stem of the rose into the ground in front of the stone, he knelt to brush away the lichen that had grown on it since last time. He halted, as though suddenly remembering something and turned to his daughter.

“We mustn't ever forget, Babe, these folks who loved us and poured their lives into ours. We need to love them while we have them and remember their stories.” The eight year-old going-on-nine brushed away tears from her cheeks.

“You can count on me, Daddy. I won't ever forget.”

He nodded, then began to apply the brush, slowly cleaning the small marker.

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