Clarity in a Cemetery
Jen Lea is one of my BFFs in real life. She writes Jlogged where she’s super-passionate about the Earth, her boys, especially securing healthcare for her Lucas, and getting the best value for her dollar. Her best quality though is her comedic timing. This story showcases a deeper side, but if you visit her blog she’ll keep you laughing till a little pee comes out.
My mom owns 43 acres of land in a small, rural community out in the middle of Nowhere, Tx U.S.A. She inherited the land from my late Grandfather. He mentioned, before his passing, an old “black” cemetery somewhere on the property. When we were going through my grandfathers things several months after he died we came across an antiquated hand drawn map of her property. The map, we assume, had belonged to my great-grandparents and possibly someone else before them. We aren’t really sure of the origin, but on the dusty, yellowed, paper we noted a small rectangle in which was scrawled “negro cemetery.”
No one we knew of had ever seen this supposed cemetery.
But last week, while out riding four wheelers, my cousins found the the place by chance, when one of them wandered off the path. So, two days ago we took the kids on a hike through the woods to see if we could locate the cemetery ourselves.
We were successful in our short trek. The graves where marked with huge iron ore rocks, and some of the rocks where piled in heaps on graves. Others were marked with a single large rock for a head stone , and smaller one at the base. You could scarcely tell it was a cemetery.
Only one simple tombstone stood, reading M. Spearman Born 1897. Died Jan 2, 1917. Gone but not forgotten. The marker was broken in half, and barely legible. I would venture to say, this person was the last to be buried there, but there is no real way of knowing.
Hulking tropical plants that were clearly placed on the grave over 90 years ago had somehow survived, and thrived, through crazy East Texas weather. Aside from the one proper tombstone, the plants were the only thing that seemed out the ordinary.
Massive pine trees had shot up all around the cemetery, and had grown right through many of the graves.
As I stood in this once sacred place, where all those men, women, and children were lain to rest, I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that in a mere 91 years all of them were forgotten. Who were they? I imagined they lead lives of back breaking work building the (now abandoned) railway that runs through my mom’s property. Some of them were likely slaves in their lifetime. I whispered out loud “a black man may be the next president of the United States. I wish you could see it.”
We sited a tiny grave encircled in small rocks-obviously a child’s grave. Thoughts of a funeral precession through the thick, hilly woods filled my mind. I could almost hear the soulful hymns, and wails of these long ago people. I could see them here dusty, and threadbare from a grueling day of work at the smelting factory, or in the fields, as they turned out to bury a precious member of their tiny community.
Now, this place is just a blip on the radar. Almost unrecognizable to the unknowing eye that it is anything other than an ordinary part of the land.
The cemetery forced me to think of how we all are just passing through, and the physical of this life dies and turns to dust, sooner or later. We can fight it, but that won’t change the fact that one day our bones will be forgotten. All of the things and stuff we work for will be lying in a landfill, but not our words, knowledge or legacy. The unknown people in this place are only unknown to me. I feel positive that they all left a part of them in this world with their living actions; a part of them that lives on in their ancestors today.
This truth stared me down. It made me question what lineage I will leave for my children, grandchildren, and beyond. Will mine be a legacy of the physical that will, all to soon, not matter at all? Or will I live a true life fighting for what I believe in, by constituting generational knowledge that will outlast the physical and live, possibly forever?
Chew on that. Think about it. What are you leaving behind? Are you spinning your wheels for physical things Or are you leaving something real? Something worthy?
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