We take my mom around to clean up and decorate the family headstones at area cemeteries each Memorial Day. It’s become a tradition and my kids actually look forward to it each year.
Our first stop is for my mom’s brother Dean who passed away in a car accident before I was born. His headstone is a military issued metal one with the raised lettering. Each year the kids argue over who gets to paint the letters with gold paint….and each year they each get to paint a portion of them. Wyatt, who thinks he’s military bound when he gets older, likes to walk to rows with flags and read the military references on the headstones.
Our last stop is our local cemetery which on a hill behind our house. It has the most breathtaking views of the valley and foothills! You have almost 360 degrees of unbroken vista from the top of the hill. It really is as peaceful a resting place as I can imagine. And it’s got the coolest, historical feel to it as soon as you walk through the stone gateways and see the old headstones that are so worn you can hardly make out the wording.
This is where our ancestors are buried, right back to my great-great-great-grandfather who crossed the Oregon Trail (twice!) and settled the family farm in 1851. And all the generations following him are represented in the family plots. And our people aren’t alone, there are numerous old headstones with dates from the 1800s. The kids like to walk around and try to find the oldest ones or try to piece together the stories of families.
While they where looking around on Saturday they found a small flat headstone that was overgrown. It was sunken at one end and didn’t look as though it had been cared for in awhile. They decided to ‘adopt’ it and Wyatt set about cleaning it up with the grass clippers. The girls made a pretty vase out of the flowers we had left over and placed it on the grave. Satisfied, they sat for a moment before we packed up to head home.
I took note of the name and dates of our adopted headstone so I could do a little research when we got home, as the last name was not one that was still in the community. She was only 19 and nothing was noted on the stone about her cause of death. When I typed it into the Google up came a picture of the headstone with a notation that she was a sister-in-law to a family name that I recognized. Now I could start to connect some dots about who’s family-line she belonged in and maybe find out a bit more about her.
I emailed the information to my mom, thinking she might find it interesting. She responded with some of the coolest information I could have imagined. When she had mentioned the name and family connection to my dad, he recognized it right away. No shock there…he’s like a walking community history encyclopedia.
But what he added to our bit of information was that the young lady who’s headstone the kids had cared for used to live right here at our house. Her old house has been long gone, I don’t remember ever seeing a stick built home on this property in my lifetime, but she had lived right here at the beginning of the last century. How much of a weird, and cool, coincidence is that?
The kids loved it…they thought it was creepy and freaky and awesome. I thought it was a bit Twilight Zone but found it very cool. I love things like that! And now I am on the hunt to find out more about her and why she only had 19 years. It’s like our own Nancy Drew story.
Needless to say, we’ll be taking care of that grave each year on Memorial Day as well as the others. Because it’s kinda like we’re connected and that’s pretty cool.