I open the Journey’s hatch and pull out the urn fillers and tray of flowers, my gloves and tools.
I bend low.
Shovel scrapes against sod and dirt and stone.
It occurs to me there was a time when the graves themselves were dug this way.
Mom passed first, but she rests in the second spot because Dad wanted to lie in the shade of the tree.
My inlaws-to-be drove a Mercedes. They went all the way to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth to get it.
And I was afraid to meet them. I didn’t know any rich people or royalty.
But Mom made sandwiches–ham salad maybe–and served gherkins in a dish and deviled eggs. And Dad came in from the field in his dirty overalls and snored in his recliner for ten minutes after lunch before he got up and went back out on his John Deere.
He loved to eat. Some of his favorites were souse and sour cream doughnuts and salt-rising bread.
And when asked if he wanted pie, he’d answer, “Oh, mehbee.” Which meant “Give me a slice of each kind.”
He kept a diary. He recorded the weather and who visited or where they went and what they ate. He collected antique clocks, and the whole house tick-tocked, and chimes went off every hour–sometimes more often.
Mom always got after him to change his clothes to go to town, but he said nobody cared. It was just Charlotte.
He’d put the same clothes (and underwear) on every morning. “I only wore it one day,” he’d say.
So she’d steal his dirty clothes for the wash and drop clean ones in the same place. She said he never knew.
I can still hear her voice when she scolded him. “Oh, Keith!” and “Sheesh.”
Mom was the family historian. We’ve inherited scrapbooks and photos from way back. She devoted an entire wall downstairs to farm antiques and photos. She called it her museum.
They towed a travel trailer to Florida every winter and rode their three-wheeled bikes to every nearby all-you-can-eat place for early bird seating. We always took our bikes when we visited. Even flew them down on a plane once when we lived in New Jersey.
We had four winters with them when we lived in Florida. I’d go to coffee hour with her where all the ladies carried their cups in special homemade bags. She asked me to speak to the group about our trip to the Virgin Islands. And she always introduced me as a nurse.
I’ll never forget when she and I rode our bikes over to a local shopping center after Thanksgiving. She swerved to miss a car and tipped over sideways in slow motion. Blood dripped down her face from her broken glasses, and she was miffed that I made her go to the ER for stitches.
And I remember her wave as we backed out of the drive to head home to Georgia after a family reunion–only to hear the phone ring when we walked in the door and have to fly back.
She had developed hemorrhagic pancreatitis, and I felt guilty that I had not recognized that she was more than just tired. And the family turned to me when it came time to make the final decision to turn off the ventilator.
I move to the other side of the stone, where my husband’s grandparents and aunt and uncle lie.
And I leak a little because I break a large flowerhead off a marigold and realize I didn’t dig out as far, and it looks like I didn’t just didn’t take as much time on this side.
I stand up too fast and everything spins for a moment.
Now I trudge down the hill and back and forth for water, though it will likely rain later anyway.
We will also sleep here one day, and I wonder if our children will decorate this place. What thoughts will they think as they dig?
What memories will they treasure?
What legacy will we leave?
I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
~2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)