Friday, September 17, 2010

Maud is gone, but not forgotten

So ran the epitaph on my first favorite monument in my first ever cemetery.

Ah, the little cemetery on the edge of the small Midwest town where I came from. Up to that fateful day in May 1970 I had no clue that such places existed. Once I found out about them, I couldn't get enough!

For my Mother, this place was a God-send of tranquility. She could sit in the car and write whilest I wandered along the headstones, drinking in the drama of small town life late 19th century style.

What possible reason could have led the town doctor to construct the one and only mausoleum in the place, grace the door with his name and dates and then, as if an after thought, add the words

"...and his wife."

That's it. That's all she got; "and his wife."

How was it that some folks had only the funeral home provided temp markers to label their final known address? The early ones were constructed of cheap metal with tin letters and numbers. The oldest one I ever found dated to the 1910's.

I wonder if it is still there, bravely battling the Midwest elements or if a mowing machine has taken it out?

The number of short graves in that cemetery were considerable. Late summer and late winter seemed to be the worst times of the year for babies and toddlers. A cluster of death dates within the same month spoke of an epidemic that swept through the region. Whooping cough? Diphtheria?

Sometimes a family would lose their children within days of one another as shown above. George died first on December 7, 1888. His sister Fannie followed him 2 weeks later on December 20.

So what caused little Maud to join the "silent city on the hill" nearly 10 years later in 1896? She was four years old that October. A late season round of whooping cough? An accident on the family farm perhaps? Her stone offers no explanation beyond the promise that while she was now absent from the family circle, she was "not forgotten."

Over 100 years later, she is still not forgotten. I've carried her memory for nigh 40 years. And now, so can you.

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