Monday, January 17, 2011

Prairie Flowers

My Dad is a member of a find-a-grave internet crowd-sourcing tool, where you can ask for pictures of specific gravesites, and in turn find graves for others. This weekend he and I and the girls drove out to the local cemetery to take pictures of graves for people requesting them on the site. It's a pleasant and relaxing task, walking the rows of gravestones, searching for a specific name, looking at the dates and doing the math, pondering the lives (and deaths) of others.

When I found one of the graves we were looking for, I yelled, and my youngest came running over, tripped and fell, cried for a few seconds, got over it quickly. My Dad told me that when my grandmother died, someone's boy was running around the cemetery during the service, and almost fell in an open grave. He said it was refreshing, to see such youthful energy at a funeral.

His sister Lois is in that same cemetery. She died when she was nine. Here is what he wrote about her in the family history:

Lois died 3 days before her 10th birthday. She received a small scrape on her foot that became infected. She died from what was then called blood poisoning.

It was the winter of 1934-35 and the whole country was in the grip of the Great Depression. The Wood family lived in the woods about 5 miles NW of Idabel OK. There was no money for funeral homes or caskets so her dad (Everett Ellsworth Wood) and her uncle Bud (Jesse B Clardy) made her a coffin of pine boards. Bud bought her a new dress in which to be buried. Walter Wood carried her coffin to Forest Hill Cemetery on the back of his truck. A line of wagons formed the funeral procession following the truck.

Her mother, Ruby Lorene Clardy, refused to continue living in the house so the family moved shortly afterward. When she was in her 70's her mother said she still thought of Lois daily.

Tough family. Tough times.

I've tended her grave several times now. It sits on a hill next to a white clapboard Baptist church in rural Oklahoma, tenacious prairie grasses and wildflowers rooted in the hard clay ground between the graves. I will tend it again this summer, when we take my Mom's ashes to that same hillside, and scatter them to the wind.


Gwilym Williams said...

I like the idea of scattering ashes to the wind. I just watched an Austrian film starring the actor Bruno Ganz which ended like that. My sister scattered my dad's ashes below an ancient oak tree by a lake in a deer park. Lovely.

It was revealed in the paper the other day that 80% of Vienna's marble grave stones are imported from India.
The death business can be a big racket.

ArtSparker said...

A friend is quite interested in geology - I will forward him a link to this post.

Maggie said...

My grandfather for years has worked on geneology and traveled over the states in search of gravestones and records. I think he might like this idea.

I'm often amazed at the wonderful inappropriateness of children.

Gordon said...


I visit my parent's graves seldom. Sometimes I bring a magic rock. If it's Christmas I usually leave a luminaire.

At relative's funerals we all wander around the cemetery finding our parents and distributing flowers from the recent funeral. It's kind of comforting. I have a plot in this wind-blown plain but don't plan to be deposited there.

Maggie said...

Gordo, I love the vision of your family wandering the cemetery distributing flowers. And this phrase: "a plot in this wind-blown plain" is so lonely and beautiful

Maggie said...

Excuse me, Gordon, not Gordo. Sorry bout that.

slommler said...

Now I will remember Lois every day too! Beautiful post!

Fresca said...

This--taking pictures of graves for strangers-- goes right in my Humanity Is Not All Bad (HINAB) file.
Is your dad the sort of guy who does stuff like that all the time?

I love how people use the nets to find new ways to be kind to strangers. (Yeah, and new ways to be unkind too, but there it is.)

History is full of children's graves...

Clowncar said...

Gwil, what a wonderful spot on which to lie. Under an ancient oak tree by a lake in a deer park.

Art - I assume you meant "geneology?" I had to do a quick scan of my post to see if I mentioned rocks!

Maggie, you are so right. Being appropriate just takes the fun out of things, doesn't it?

Gordon, sorry to hear your Mom and Dad have passed. I didn't know that. Makes me regret being mean to your mom back when we were in high school. I like the idea of leaving a magic rock. I write letters to my sister and leave them under a stone.

Thanks Sue Ann. It's comforting to know that events so long ago are still remembered.

Yes, Fresca, he is that kind of guy. And crowd-sourcing of all sorts makes me feel good about humanity. The internet is, I think, on the whole, an evolutionary leap forward.

Laura said...

beautiful, beautiful. thank you for sharing.

A.S. said...

I wrote a journal for my stepmom after she passed. I left it at her grave site for her family. Not sure if they ever found it, but it comforts me knowing it could still be there. I've only been to see her once, when I left the journal, I will need to make another trip soon. I miss her dearly.