Forgotten Souls

It’s strange how certain thoughts hit you sometimes.

I was half-heartedly browsing through Facebook, reading the mundane, self-serving status updates of some of the people I’ve “friended” and glazing over other status updates that one might describe as “vague” or “mysterious” but that I prefer to think of as cries for attention. I mean, honestly, if you’re posting it then it’s obvious you want people to know about it, so you might as well be clear about it. Otherwise keep it to yourself.

But one of my cousins had posted photos, and I tend to peruse family photos to keep up with family and what they’re doing lately. It’s not as if we really get the same opportunities to see each other that we used to. Somehow, when you’re a child and in no control of what you’re doing or where you’re going, you still get to see extended family members several times a year. You become an adult and suddenly life gets in your way. You have control over everything now, but somehow you can’t get away from work, you’ve got other plans that were made first, you can’t match up schedules with them, etc. etc.

Focus, me! The point I’m trying to get at is that she had posted a picture of a familiar gravestone. It’s located somewhere on their farm and as a child it was an adventure to take out the 4-wheelers and try to find it. We would cross barbed-wire fences, run from bulls, and hike across fields searching for it. Once we found it, we’d sometimes pull back the overgrowth (where we could reach – as I remember it had a cast iron fence around it) and make the gravestone visible again.

Now, the gravestone belonged to a woman by the name of Jennifer Krum Kilgore, it may or may not have been Anna Jennifer – I can’t remember exactly but it seems like there was another name (plus I can’t see clearly in the photo). I distinctly remember each of us – myself, two brothers, and my cousin – each choosing a name to memorize so we could tell everyone who was buried there once we returned. Somehow, no one could ever remember her name unless we’d just been out to see it.

The photo my cousin posted brought up all sorts of memories and thoughts in my head. It occurred to me that this stone represents a woman who lived in another lifetime. I can admit I don’t know the facts. The rumors, as I remember them, were always that she was part of a wagon train and got sick; that they buried her there because that was simply where she had died. But now, if you look at the photograph, it says “Of Butler” which means she must’ve been from the nearby town, right? I guess stories are often just that: stories.

Regardless, I’ve come to realize that this woman who I know nothing about, who was (likely) in no way related to me, who lived…maybe two hundred years ago – I realized that I’ve been to her gravesite more times than I have for the loved ones in my life that I lost, those that I actually knew. For some reason that strikes a chord in me, but I’m not entirely sure why. I remember as a child standing at her grave and thinking that no one in a hundred years had stood there other than us. That she’d been entirely forgotten. She wasn’t buried in a cemetery where people could come and show their respects or take a moment to remember her.

Ms. Kilgore was buried out in the middle of nowhere, smack dab in the middle of hundreds of acres of farm land. I remember standing there and thinking how sad that must be. But why? It’s not like she’s there waiting on someone to visit her. But still, I always felt an bit of sadness. I still feel sad to think of that lonely gravestone. But it seems contradictory to think of all the people I’ve lost in my life and whose graves I’ve never returned to. As that child, I always chose to venture out to Ms. Kilgore’s grave. I couldn’t always get my brother or cousins to take me…but I always wanted to go see it everytime we were out visiting. Maybe I felt she deserved to have someone who would tend to the tombstone and clear away the overgrowth so she wouldn’t disappear entirely.

Think about it…a hundred years from now, it’s very likely that no one will know you ever existed. Your tombstone will be just one more in a long line of other forgotten tombstones. Occasionally a passerby may stop and glimpse at your tombstone and make a nonchalant comment, “Kilgore? What an uncommon name…” but then they’ll just move along. Your grave will be tended by some groundskeeper simply because it’s his job, not because someone remembered you and wanted to show their respect to the deceased but rather because it’s another buck in his pocket.

Sometimes I think it’d be better to die and be buried alone, out in the middle of someone’s acreage. I think it would be better for some children, 100 years later, to discover your grave and feel like they had discovered a big secret, to give them some kind of mystery to try solving. I think it would be preferable to offer those children some kind of exciting, memorable experience than to be one more hunk of stone in a cemetery where someone routinely tends to your tombstone only because they get paid to do so.

I think I’d be happier in the afterlife if the proof of my existence was appreciated by excited, adventurous children than if it simply went unnoticed alongside everyone else’s in a vast cemetery somewhere. I’d rather be overgrown with weeds than covered with tarps and pins and ropes, my grave trampled all over when someone is to be buried nearby. Do you ever give a second thought to the people whose graves you’re walking all over when you go to a cemetery?

I understand that there’s nothing there anymore and you probably don’t care. But somehow it feels disrespectful and always makes my heart a little heavy.

Somehow… I have more of an attachment to the tombstone of this unknown Ms. Kilgore than to my own lost loved ones. Is that because it hurts too much to revisit theirs?

Ah…what an odd train of thought I boarded tonight.

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