Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Robert Lee Daniels

March 3rd 1894-July 11th 1987

In loving memory. Greatly missed husband, father and grandfather

            I was missed when I was there. I don’t know if they cared enough to miss me when I was gone.

            There was no lacking in love in our household. I knew my wife loved me. We fell in love when we were eleven and never parted. Yes, I went off to war, fought in battles, came back scarred and damaged. She went off to school, became a teacher and waited for me to come back. She worked and saved and built a little nest and when I came back we married in a simple, quiet ceremony. It was the only beautiful moment we had.

            Our life wasn’t touched by the crash. I worked in a factory. She taught school. Her mother stayed at home and took care of the children. We always had food. We always had a home. We were always prepared. She didn’t want to work outside of the home when the children came, but we knew they wouldn’t have a future if we didn’t both work.

            I provided food on the table and a roof over our head and she provided the future for our children. Our children went to school, but the lessons didn’t end there. My beloved taught them to respect everyone, to save money, to contribute to society through work and service. She was a teacher to her core. I was the provider. I would go to work all day and show up right on time for dinner. I would listen to the children tell stories about their day, suffer through music lessons and attend school plays. I was the silent figure omnipresent in their lives.

            I would wait in the study during bath time and bed time. I would hear the bed time songs and stories and the pattering of feet of one more trip to the bathroom or the kitchen for one last drink of water. My heart was full of love and pride, but I had never been taught the words to say as my three little children grew into strong, independent, contributing members of society. I was father, always there, always silent.

            My beloved is resting here beside me. She came first, to prepare the way they say. She was the better part of the two of us and it only took six months to find my place beside her. My children put this stone up when they placed her body here. I’m sure my side wouldn’t have been nearly as grand if I had gone first. I’m sure there was a lot of discussion in my study about what exactly to do about father now that mother was gone. It was done quietly and the home the put me in was nice, if not perfect. I wish they had come to visit me more than once or twice. I wanted to listen to their stories one more time.

            I welcome the rest, if only because my beloved can rest here beside me. A lifetime of togetherness. An eternity together.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

William “Billy” Stevenson April 17th 1999- November 23rd 2002

Sleep well my child. May you find the peace in your new life you never had in this one.

            It is all so clear now. All those conversations I was missing. All the words anyone has ever wanted to say to me. All the words I ever wanted to say. I didn’t understand before. Why couldn’t I make sense of this before? There is hope in the world now.

            Before, I don’t even know how to describe before. It was like the world was rushing at me a million miles an hour and I was stuck in the slow lane. Every flash of light, every sound, every color, every taste, it was like I was covered over by stinging wasps constantly buzzing and stinging every sensory perception and I couldn’t get away.

            I couldn’t get anything out through the cloud surrounding me at all times. I was bound by my own limitations, but not anymore. There is nothing binding me any longer. I’m free. Free to find my voice. Free to feel without fearing what I am feeling.

            I can hear your voice now. It is coming through loud and clear. It is no longer just loud, pounding at every sense as if it was a wave overpowering me, oppressing me, keeping me from myself. I know who I am now. I know who you are now. This is what it means t think. To feel to understand.

            This is what it means to see color. I can see color now. It’s not just sound flooding my senses and scratching at the inside of my eyes. There is a rainbow of color to explore. I know what blue is now. I know what red and yellow and green and black and orange and purple means. It’s real for me now. I can see it with my eyes and with my heart and with my soul, too.

            It’s not too much for me anymore. I know what the world means. I understand. I might even understand even better than you.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Heather Marks March 11th 1953-July 2nd 1972

Forever in our Hearts. Taken from us too soon.

I want my mamma. Please. It’s so dark. I’m so alone. I’m so afraid.

            My life was supposed to be full of like and fun and hope. I was supposed to have the chance to live and love, have children, have a job. I was going to be a teacher or a nurse or, I don’t know. I was supposed to be something. I was supposed to help people. I had a chance to be something.

            I will never feel the touch of a lover’s kiss or hear the sound of my child’s laughter as she is tossed in the air. I want to feel the rain on my face again as I splash through puddles and dance defiantly through the storm. All my future storms were taken away from me It’s not fair. It’s not right.

            Mamma, I need you. It is dark and quiet. Too quiet. I need to hear the sound of your voice, feel your arms holding me tight. Don’t leave me here alone. I need help. I need love. I need you.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

# 87689 June 7th 1947

            Is this all I get? Really? I was more than this, this number. I was some one’s son. She held me in her arms and prayed for me and cried for me. She tended my injuries and cried real tears when they sentenced me to death. I mattered to her, even if I didn’t understand how she could love a sinner like me. I can guarantee there are people out there who will never forget me.

            I reveled in sin. If it made me feel good I consumed it. Alcohol, drugs, women, men.  I deserved to be remembered. I looked into the eyes of each of them as I tightened my hands around their throats. I sucked the last breath from their lips as they surrendered to me.

            I deserve more than a number. Look at me. Look at everything I did. I made my mark on the world. I changed the way everyone in the world lived their lives. Women no longer hitchhike alone. Parents don’t let their children take shortcuts through the woods. Men, men well, they will always be men. That’s what made them such an easy catch.

            I might be only a number here, but I changed the world. I changed you. Didn’t I?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Elaine Marcy Danes June 7 1967- June 10 1967

Memories linger of a little angel, heaven sent, who brightened our lives, but for a brief, fleeting moment.

All is quiet.

Even the sound of your heartbeat is gone.




It is all here.

There is an emptiness in the world where you exist.

But here all has been fulfilled.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dina Nussbaum Klien Jan 16 1923-June 2 2007

Wife, mother, grandmother. She lived through the horrors of the holocaust to bear witness against the evil one man does to another.

            My life was neatly divided into two parts: the person I was before the camp and the person I was after being liberated. Every minute of my life was marked by the horror of those days spent in the camp. I did not understand why we were being herded like cattle into boxcars and being transported across our land to the work camps. I was seventeen and very pretty, even for a Jew. At least that’s what the Nazis would say when they walked by me when we lived in the ghettos.

            I don’t remember much of our times before we went into the ghetto. All I remember is my father coming home from work early one morning and telling my mother there wasn’t a job there for him any longer. My mother was a nurse, but the hospital wouldn’t let her work. I remember thinking my sister was lucky because she had been sponsored by our aunt in America and father had spent the last of our savings to get her papers and passage out of the country. I wanted to go too, but mother said I was too young and father would have to work and save two more years to get the money to get me out. I had asked why we couldn’t all go and I remember the look my parents gave each other before shushing me and sending me to bed. Then there was the ghettos and then the camps.

            Father was called first. He was ordered to march with many of the men and boys to the next village where they would be put on trains to go to the work camps. He promised to write. We never received any letters. A few days later a neighbor boy, one who had went with the men, came staggering back into town sometime in the middle of the night. My mother went to his home to care for him and when she came back she was pale and shaking. She told me my father was never coming home and we needed to take care of ourselves from now on. When the letter came for my mother and I to report to the work camps I knew we would never return.

            I don’t talk about my years in the camps, not even to my children, not even to my husband, not even to my God. I let the pictures and the scars and the numbers tattooed on my arm speak for me. My youth and beauty were given to the camp. My grandparents, my brother, my mother, were all given to the ovens when we arrived. I only learned this after I had been liberated. I was young. I was strong. I could work. I was allowed to live. My prettiness soon faded under the harsh conditions in the camp. The thing that had brought me treats from the soldiers, a little extra food here, a chocolate bar, a pair of shoes, did little to serve me here. I worked hard. I did what I was told. I stood for roll call every morning and every evening. When I was sick and didn’t want to get out of bed I still stood in line with the other women. Anyone who stayed in bed after roll call were taken away. We thought they were being cared for in the hospital. It was only later we learned they were being given to ovens.

            I remember when the English came. I remember the American soldiers. I remember being liberated from the camp, but I don’t remember when the suffering ended. I remembered I had an aunt in America and someone sent her a letter for me. I was still sick from malnutrition and weakened from the illnesses so prevalent in the camps when they received a response back from her. I was to be sent to America right away. My sister was there and they were waiting for me.

            It took years to get my strength back. My sister cared for me. She had never suffered. She was still pretty, even for a Jew. Her husband wasn’t even Jewish. Neither of them would understand what happened to me. They didn’t even know what happened to mother and father. I was alone in this world.

            My husband, he understands. We stood together, quiet witnesses to the horror. My children are named for my grandfather, my mother, my brother, my father. I wanted to keep going. I wanted to have enough children to carry the name of all of my lost relatives, but the doctor said no, I needed to stop. My children are my final witness to the horror. They will carry the names with them and pass them on to the next generation and the generation after that, least some future generations forget. Our names will stand witness to it all.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Rolf Maddox Acker 1927-1945

They buried my gun straight down into the ground and rested my helmet on the stock. They placed a board with my name, rank and serial number etched deep across the gun and left me there in the ground. Maybe someday they will come back and mark the place where I fell, but I doubt it since I was on the losing side.

I did not choose this side. I went where I was told. I did what I was told. I was a good soldier. My country needed me so I did what they said.

I was a good soldier. I left the home of my parents and joined with my new brothers. I protected my land from the enemy, from both within and without. I was told there were those who would destroy my way of life and I chose to believe them. I saw the evil in the eyes of my neighbors and quietly celebrated when they were taken away. The leaders told us our problems would be solved and our nation would be strong if we cleansed it of impurities. They told us what wasn’t pure and we cleansed. It was what we were told to do. Those who questioned would be cleansed as well. It was our responsibility to make our nation strong.

I lie here in the arms of my mother country knowing my mother was praying I would be home resting in her arms. I believed with my whole heart the words my leaders, after all, what would they benefit from these kind of lies.

So, I lie here, comforted by the truth of my convictions. Knowing my leaders would never lead me into the paths of evil. I need to be able to place my faith somewhere why not in the men who led us from ruin to prosperity?
Maybe my death will allow my mother to live in a peaceful land, safe from any harm. When the war is over I pray they find my resting place and bring my bones home. It does not matter if we won or lost, every son deserves to return home to his mother.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Mary Pretty Eagle April 6th 1884 Unknown Age

Lost Unto This World

            They took the beads from around my neck and laid them aside. My mother had given me the beads to wear so all those who saw would know I was of value. After all, I was the daughter of a chief, a strong warrior. I was more precious than the hand carved beads so painstakingly smoothed from stone and shell. I did not cry as I saw them cast the beads into a bin nearly overflowing with the remnants of the wealth of our people. White beads and blue beads, webs woven to catch the nightmares and allow us to sleep in the strange beds under blankets woven from the wool of very smelly animals. I missed the sweet smell of smoked tanned skins and the warmth of the hide during the cold darkness of the night.

            They took the braids from my hair. The two braids framing my face and tied so carefully with a pieces of leather cord. My father had given me a scrap of white rabbit fur and the feather of an eagle to bind at the end of my braids. He called me his brave child and said I must remember to soar like the eagle. I was going to fight in a new kind of battle and if I was strong enough I could touch the sky. During our long march to my new school I would feel the soft fur of the rabbit fur against my cheek and see the flutter of the feather out of the corner of my eye and remember my father and I would remember to be brave. I shed no tears as they unbound my hair, even when they allowed the feather to flutter to the ground. The feather of the eagle is meant to soar to the sky, not be crushed under the heeled boot of the pale-skinned man.

When no one was looking I picked up the scrap of rabbit fur and tucked it into my sleeve. At night, when I could not sleep, I took the fur out from under my sleeping gown and rubbed it against my cheek. It would remind me of wind storms on the plains and the smell of my father’s clothes in the last moments before they took me from his arms and brought me to this place.

They placed my body here, beneath a stone with a strange symbol I did not understand. I was dressed in a thin gown of delicate white cloth designed to cover the darkness of my skin. Nothing of the gown tells the Spirit World to whom I belong. How will my mother and father recognize me in these strange rags and my hair pinned into a tight knot in the back of my head? They could have at least wrapped me in the deerskin robe my mother had given me to keep me warm on my journey.

I lay here in this strange land, far from the lands of my people and I do not cry. There are not enough tears to wash away this loneliness. Above me red poppies, yellow daffodils and white lilies spring to life. Their roots do not reach down to me so I cannot feel the lifeblood of the earth renewing itself each spring.

My spirit will wander in this strange land, so far from the homes of my people. In the darkness of the night I believe I can feel the whispered brush of rabbit fur against my face and I know my father is seeking for me. I will stay here, quiet, until he comes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Anna Marie Smith June 5 1792-March 22 1846

She lived to help others

            Why would they need to put up this gargantuan slab of gray marble to commemorate a life lived so quietly? I never wanted this. I wanted peace and quiet and to show love through all my life. This statue is not how I lived my life. Here they have outlined my deeds for all the world to see. The gentle nursing of a sick child, the staunching of the flow of blood from the wounds of a dying soldier, bringing the word of God into the heathen lands at great peril of my own life. All of these things were done quietly. Without fanfare. Without proclaiming them to the world.

            I will lay here quietly while the weather wears away the angels’ wings and carve the beauty away from their cherubic faces. The stone will become pitted and difficult to read. Long after the memory of my deeds have faded young children will come to this spot and wonder why I deserved this honor. All I ever did was fulfill my calling in life.

            This isn’t my final resting place. I will continue to do the work I have been called to do. My physical body only held me back from my purpose. So, come and visit my resting place. Worship at this idol built without my permission or guidance. I will not be here. I will be at the work for which I have been called.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Josiah Weaver 1907-1988

Here lies Josiah Weaver. Father. Husband. Son.

            This is all. I am resting now, behind this quiet, iron wrought fence. My life was full of everything I ever wanted. Work, family, home, love, faith. I earned my resting place, here beside my mother and father and his mother and father and every mother and father back for ten generations.

            I was the good son. I stayed on the land and cared for the crop and the stock. I put food on the table for my wife and children. My life may have looked boring to some. I know it looked boring to my brother. He left the first chance he had. He fought in wars and worked in factories and made his way through college and made way more money than I ever could. He had two wives, although not at the same time, and three children and died in a puddle of his own vomit with a bottle in his hand. He is buried here too, way in the back corner, but he still has the honor of his name. It is engraved there, on the front of the mausoleum for everyone to see. I objected when they brought his body home. He didn’t deserve a place of honor here among those who put their faith in family, but father reminded me he was his son too, he would join us in death even if he never joined us in life. In the end I came to terms with my brother being with us, after all, no matter what happened, he is still family.

            There is still room here. My wife has taken her place at my side and my son will come after me. My daughter will be buried under another name and her children with her. She understands, just as I do, family is everything. It is what we have here on this earth and it is what we will have in the next life.

            My callused hands, work-worn and strong, are folded over my heart. A smile of sweet repose rests upon my face. There is strength and peace radiating from me, even as I slowly fade to dust. I am left to wonder, why is there no doorknob on the inside?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ella Marie Schofield 1837-1870 33 years 5 months 3 days

Constant of Faith, Generous by Heart

            I called upon the only God I knew in those last moments. I prayed. I cried. I begged. I did everything in my power to bring life into the world. I wasn’t praying for myself. I was praying for her. After so many losses she was all I could ever hope for. I just wish I could have been there beyond the first moments of her life. The glimpse I had of her before I faded away wasn’t enough to satisfy my desire to hold her.

            All of those years I spent in service to God and others, those were cold replacement for my empty arms. I ached to hold my own child every time I brought food to a new mother, or hemmed a baptismal gown, or counseled a new father whose hands trembled the first time he held his child. I would hide my tears behind a forced smile and wait until I returned home to bury my face in my pillow to stifle the screams throbbing in my heart.

            Oh, my husband, I know how you loved me. You never blamed me for the times I carried a fragile life within my body only to be cast out by some misbegotten moment. Just like every man, you never understood why I would sob so bitterly for the barely formed life my body rejected, sometimes even before I was aware it was there. So, I would hide my tears behind a false mask of love and servitude. Your meals were always on time and your clothes were always well cared for, pressed and cleaned. You never had a need to complain about my ability to keep house or tend to the budget. I gave my whole self to you and to my service to others. And yet nothing I did could soothe the aching in my heart.

            You were my last hope. My last earthly desire, my child. From the moment you took root I knew you would be my last. I prayed for you. I begged for every moment of your life. I gave my whole self to you, even after the doctors said bringing you into this world would end my own life. I know your father resented you. After all, giving you life took my own. My greatest sorrow in life was knowing I was leaving you to be suckled at the breast of another woman. No other woman could love you as I loved you.

            Every moment I had with you gave me hope and strength. From the first moment I felt the butterfly wings of you flutter in my belly to the last moments of pain I endured as I ripped my body apart to allow you to breathe, I loved you. My last moments were spent studying your face, taking in every inch of your body so I could remember you and imagine you growing into the young woman I prayed you would become.

            I miss you, my child. I know this cold monument is a poor replacement for a mother’s arms. The woman I choose to be your nursemaid was kind and loving. I knew she would care for you, even if your father could not. You replaced the child she lost and even though her status would never equal my husband’s I know she gave him comfort in his bed, if not in his heart. I could never resent her. I had you.

            You were loved, oh child of mine. I know you were. I do not mind finding rest here. My soul has found solace in the service of my God and in the knowledge I have given you the world. I want joy for you and peace and love. All the things a mother could give a child. I will rest knowing you have life and the opportunity to find all these things. Be at peace my child. I am.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Richard Dransfield 1892-192

A beloved husband and generous father to his children. Loved by many and missed by all.

You paupered yourself for this monument. For the bronze medallion declaring to all who could see I had the faith in a God who would rescue my soul from all my failings. Why?

I never worshiped your God. I worshiped at the altar of commerce, the church of power, the cross of the almighty dollar. Every moment of my life was consumed with chasing the next big investment. I built our home on falsehood and false promises. You were clothed in fabrics paid for by the blood of broken dreams.

My children never knew me. They never knew the sacrifices my father made to send me to school. I repaid his sacrifice by letting him know how shameful I found him. He spent his life plowing through the hard soil, fighting with the weather and the blight to put food on the table and shelter over our heads. We didn’t have a fancy house or fashionable clothes, but we were well-fed and safe and loved. He did more to provide for his children than I ever did for mine.

What did I have left in the end? The money was gone. I was left clutching worthless stocks and bonds to my failing heart. I was left thinking about what I could sell to keep food on our table. Your jewels, the house, my watch, the furniture. We could sell it all, but which of our friends could buy it? The man at the desk next to mine through himself through the window as soon as the news broke.

I should have spent my life on the land like my father. With the land you know the battle. You can see the storm clouds over the horizon. You can see the flood waters rising. We had been warned. No one could say they didn’t see this happening.

I was supposed to give love and life and joy to you, my wife. Instead I gave loneliness and the mask of a world built on deception. Our home was built of paper and our baubles created of paste. There is nothing of value there any more than there is anything of value found under this stone.

Perhaps our children learned from our mistakes. I know you sent our daughter to live with your maiden aunt and our son to live with my father on his farm. Our daughter learned the skills necessary to care for others and gained the skills you believed were beneath an individual of her status. Cooking, cleaning, sewing, creating a budget, all those things necessary to become a caregiver, a servant to those more fortunate than us.

Our son, ah, our son. He became my father’s apprentice. He gained the pride of working the land I could never develop. Perhaps he should have been born my father’s son instead of me. There is no shame in menial labor in him. He has found satisfaction in turning over the rich loam and burying the seed deep in the soil. Perhaps if they hadn’t planted me so deep I might have borne fruit like the land my father worked so hard to keep.

Did you even miss me? You are buried next to your second husband under some monument in a strange churchyard. Our daughter is buried in some Western state next to her husband. Her children place flowers on her grave and bring their children to visit. Our son is buried next to my parents on the same land still owned by his grandchildren. No one comes to my grave. There are no flowers bestrewing my resting place. I should find some satisfaction knowing our children didn’t visit your grave either, but her other children, the ones she had with him, they bring flowers to her grave. They are buried next to her and their children bring flowers to them.

I chased paper and the illusion of greatness it would provide and look what it left me. No one even remembers who I was. This monument tells the world what I was, not in the words it says, but in the words it could never contain.

Great Lines Think Alike

Every once in a while a line will pop into my head and I find myself needing to write it into a story. My most recent line: I will die a ...