The pastor was late and his tardiness allowed time for a sobering walk up the hillside. I didn’t need a
compass to determine which direction was East; all of the headstones and markers faced that way. Hope is ever present, even in cemeteries. A recent burial was indicated by fresh flowers and fresh turned earth; a new neighbor moving into what appeared to be a very old neighborhood. Graves dating from the early 1800s were everywhere. Markers were so old some names and dates were obliterated. Time, the very commodity each one residing here ran out of, is now so brazen as to take away their identities.
As I read names and dates I tried to imagine the era in which they lived and died. What, according to my memory of history, was happening in 1803. Eighteen thirty-five, eighteen fifty-six, and all of the other by-gone years.
As I stood in front of Ezekial Brown’s final resting place, my cell phone rang, breaking the silence of
my contemplation of eternity. I was somewhere between his birth in 1807 and his death in 1886. Why
did I answer my cell phone? Habit, I guess. It was someone doing marketing for a surveillance equipment company. After several no’s, they finally hung up. But Ezekial had closed the door and would not allow me back inside. I couldn’t blame him. Rude is rude no matter the century. I moved on.
“Who wept for this child?” I thought.
“I did and still do,” came a voice into my mind.
I looked next door and there was her mother’s place. Both mother and daughter, side by side, separated only by a few feet of earth and eternity. The hillside seemed alive.
“No, over here. Come over here and read my name.”
“Please say my name. I haven’t heard it in so long.”
I went to as many as I could, saying each one aloud and reading the birth dates. I purposely did not read the date of their death. Many of the stones were so old and worn I could not read their names. I felt their pain, the pain of being nameless and forgotten. I heard the pastor as he arrived in the parking lot. I could feel the disappointment of those whose names I had not read.
“I will come back,” I told them in my mind. “I will come and visit you again.”