Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Broken Hearts and Stones

Can you read it?

 Here’s what it says: Nanie. Dau of WH and Lizzie Clements. Died Nov. 8, 1896. AGE 5 yrs 7 mos. REST IN PEACE.

Breaks your heart, doesn’t it? Here’s another one.

I doubt if you can read this one. The picture is a bird (dove?) with something in its mouth.

Probably still can’t read it. Right?

How about now?

Still a little hard, isn’t it? Here’s what it says: Maxine Robertson. Born and Died Jan. 3, 1901.

Imagine both sets of parents’ aching  hearts? I know lots of babies and small children died around the turn of that century, but it couldn’t make losing them any easier.

Here’s something that for me is almost as sad–both tombstones are broken. You can see in the first one, it’s been lying on the ground for so long there’s grass growing between the stone and the base. 

The one belonging to Baby Maxine, who was born and died on the same day, is lying flat on top of the base.

I don’t know who is responsible for upkeep of tombstones, especially old ones. What if there’s not any family left to take care of them? What do we do? Just leave them lying on the ground?

Or maybe I could mix up a little concrete and take it with me the next time Carollea and I walk around the cemetery.

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Sweet Sleep

If you were to drive past, this is what you’d see today

if you noticed it at all.

So you get out of your car and walk a few steps. The stone isn’t cemented at all. In fact, it looks like a piece of flagstone that someone carved by hand. Who ever created this heart touching work of art must have cared so much! It couldn’t have been easy to do, but it was completed.

Hard to read, isn’t it? I’ll make it darker.

Still nearly impossible to read, but you can see one thing. The vertical line that divides the stone. (Reminds me of the Ten Commandments that Charlton carried off the mountain.)

I’ll take you closer. (Isn’t the mossy green stuff pretty growing there?)

It says, “Sweet.

This side says, “Sleep.” Figured out the vertical line? It’s a tombstone for twins. 😦


“Bennie” is on the left. “Sussie” is on the right. Below that it says, “Infants of BF White.” No mention of their mother. I don’t know if that’s a sign of the times. You know, as if everyone believed babies had to have a mother and she had to be married to the father, so the fact of her and her name (MRS. BF White, naturally) is understood without mentioning her. Sigh.

The date at the bottom sort of goes downhill and says only Dec. 23 and Dec. 27. At four days old, they died. Two days after Christmas. Doesn’t it break your heart? This had to be back in the day before ultrasounds and doplars. Could they have known there were problems before the babies were born? Was there any way to be prepared for their loss?

Is it ever possible to prepare for something like that?

Can’t you just see the twin’s father, working into the night chipping away at this piece of flagstone? It’s the very last thing he’ll ever be able to do for his children, and he wants to make it beautiful.

The parents’ headstone isn’t nearby, at least not that I’ve found. Kind of heart breaking, isn’t it, to think of these babies dying and the parents having to move away so they couldn’t visit the grave?

I’d never do it, but I’d so love to be able to take this little tombstone home with me and care for it in my garden, just so it wouldn’t be so all alone.

I just hope the tombstone has moved and that tree isn’t growing up where the babies were buried.


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Tombstone Tuesday

Decorating the family’s graves has kind of fallen to Omega (aka Sister Amy) over the years.  Two of her daughters’ graves are being decorated, so she’s great at remembering and taking care of things. I help out when I can.

Not that I mind. Actually, I enjoy going to cemeteries. Well, I enjoy old ones. New ones that are flat and monotonous, not so much.

As usual, this year when I went to pick up some of the decorations (if you wait too long, roving bands of senior citizen gangs get them!) I took my camera along. This is the view from my mother and father-in-law’s graves.

Not a real exciting view, is it? But there’s a part of this cemetery that’s absolutely fascinating.

See? It’s a whole flock of angels. Don’t you just love angels? 🙂

So I pulled over and took a few shots. Then I happened on this one, and couldn’t tear myself away because my heart got involved.

Come a little closer. I’ll show you why.

Can you read it? It says Elizabeth Pitts, wife of Alfred Oberly. (She had to really love him to marry a guy named Alfred!) Born May 12, 1907; Died Sept. 21, 1924.

This girl was only seventeen years old and she was married and had a baby. I know she had a baby because of this. (Still makes me want to cry.)

George J. Son of Alfred and Elizabeth Oberly. Born Aug. 4, 1924; Died Oct. 26, 1924. “A little bud of love to bloom with God above.”

So poor Liz had little George in August of 1924 (I’ll bet it was one hot summer with no air conditioning!) Then she died less than two months later. And then Baby George passed just over a month after that.

Why did they die? Was it child-birth fever? An illness that couldn’t be cured? Was George ill from birth? Did Elizabeth grieve herself to death over his future? His health?

And poor Alfred. Imagine the joy of having your first son with your beautiful wife, and losing them both in the first sixty days.

You can’t see her very well, but I know she was beautiful. And I’m positive she had a beautiful heart.

This is the angel on Baby George’s headstone.

Elizabeth doesn’t have an angel. She has a grieving mother, looking down on everyone who comes past.

Or maybe she’s not grieving. She might be thinking about her husband, who she had to leave behind.

I feel really bad because I don’t know what happened to Alfred. To be honest, I was so struck by the death of this beautiful young woman and her son that I forgot to look for Alfred’s grave.

Or maybe Alfred is still alive. I hope so. I’d like to say hi.


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Now I Get It!

A Christmas market in Clifton Mill, Ohio, Unit...

Image via Wikipedia

I might have mentioned that I’m a walker. A few years ago when we lived in Pryor Creek, I walked  just to have a little time without someone wanting me to hurry up and get something done. 

I loved working with G-Man at our pharmacy, and having three little boys was the best thing this side of heaven, but I craved a little time on my own.

Now I walk  because the doctor told me I have to, and because I found out how good it makes me feel. Plus it burns off a few of the calories that find their way into my bod. *sigh* (I’ll have tell you about Aunt Betty one of these days.)

Walking is good for the heart, spirit, muscles, attitude and just about everything else. I can only think of two times when it might not be good.

  1. If you have a worn out joint and are ambulating bone-on-bone.
  2. If the only place you have to walk makes it necessary to play dodge car. 🙂

So we layered up and walked yesterday. It was about 25 degrees, and with wind chill (it was blowing!) it was c-o-l-d! But I look good in blue, so I enjoyed it anyway. LOL

We walk in the Woodland Cemetery on top of cemetery hill (doesn’t every town have a hill named that?) and this time of year, it’s just beautiful.

For a few weeks, we admired the colors of the leaves in the surrounding woods. Now we’re enjoying the beautiful decorations showing up on the graves.

To be honest, I always wondered about seasonal decorating at cemeteries. The permanent residents are past enjoying the decorations on their graves. (Grandma isn’t there. She’s in Heaven!) Why is it done?

My family decorates on Memorial Day, but some people make their loved ones’ graves pretty all year round. Grave blankets are showing up (a flat evergreen covering that usually has big red bows) as are artificial poinsettias, garlands, angels, Merry Christmases and a not little bit of bling. 

We even found mistletoe on the road under our feet! 

Then I saw something that cleared that question up for me–a friend, decorating her father’s grave with red and green garland on a shepherd’s crook (plant hanger) and the banner, JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.

These people aren’t decorating to keep the departed happy. They’re doing it to make the place a little more pleasant for other people who visit, to let others know their family hasn’t been forgotten, and (as in my friend case) to share her witness in a gentle way.

Do you decorate your family’s graves for Christmas? If so, thanks! Us walkers love having something new to look at (and talk about) once in a while. <G>