A recent trip to a local cemetery for research reminded me of one of my favorite stories, although it is sad.
My wonderful grandmother had ten children. Two children did not make it to adulthood. The deaths of her children were tragic and she never got over them. But raising the other six took all the money available and my aunt and uncle’s graves never were marked with a headstone. Using my contacts in Elberton, Georgia (Tombstone Capital of the World), I was able to purchase two small footstone size markers for their graves.
When the markers were complete I traveled to Elberton to get them and bring them back. Back home in Elgin, my Dad and I asked grandmother if she wanted to go with us to place the stones. This is when I learned that visiting their graves had been something she could not bring herself to do for the years since their death. But for a grandchild, she would do anything.
Our first stop was the graveyard where her newborn son was buried. She entered the well kept little church yard and stopped. “I.. I… I don’t know where they put him,” she said. “I was sick and he was just a few hours old….”
What had I done? I couldn’t even address her or the pain in her face at that moment. “Daddy, can we just set it down here?” I said, pointing to a spot near a fence. “I’m sure somebody will know where it goes. I’ll call some of the church people.”
Daddy undoubtedly felt as I did. “Yeah. Mama, would that be all right?”
She nodded. We set the stone down. I left a note on the parsonage door and we got into the car.
“Grandma, are you OK? Do you want to go home?”
“No, I want to do this,” she said quietly.
Just a minute down the road was the second graveyard, where her daughter was buried after a terrible accident. She was just a toddler when she was killed. Here, Grandma knew where her daughter was buried, but she was surprised to see that someone had placed some landscape coping around the grave and just generally made it as lovely as they could. We placed the first stone and walked away to give her a few minutes with the spot.
“Hush. It’s good to do this. Give her a minute,” Daddy said.
A few minutes later, Daddy gently took her elbow, “Mama? You ready to go?” She nodded and he led her to the car.
In a few days, Grandma called me and thanked me for taking care of her babies. A few months later, she had the heart attack and subsequent stroke that killed her.
We gave her a beautiful stone.