A Moving Experience

James L. Cowles

© Copyright 2022 by James L. Cowles
Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.
I'm sure many of you have had a moving experience in your lifetime. Many of these seem to come when a person has aged, when ones life finds us celebrating birthdays in our sixth decade, and beyond. This certainly fits with me, and this recent experience.

My daughter, a published author, is doing research on her next book, which will include some history of our family. Through her efforts, she was able to find the burial location of my paternal grandmother, and three of her children, those of my aunt, and two uncles. These are people whom sadly, I've never known.

My grandmother died in 1904, when my father was only three years old. Dad and I often talked about her, he telling me, he could still remember her smile, and gentleness. When a person became ill in those days, it was often a trying time. The slightest cold could lead to pneumonia, and living in a rural setting made it more difficult to get medical treatment. My grandmother was in her early thirties when she passed, and her life on the farm had not been an easy one.

I learned that my aunt, her daughter,  was only six years old when she died, having a horrible, unimaginable death. Her dress caught fire when she got too close to the fireplace, and she was tragically, burned to death. I never knew this, and it brought to mind how Woody Guthrie's little sister passed in the same way, an extremely painful death. My two uncles were also quite young when they died, but my family has no record of their ages, nor how they died.

In those days, the late nineteenth century, it was not unusual to bury loved ones nearby, including of course, on your own land. Such was the case with my grandmother and her children. It was so moving to look down on their simple graves, marked with crude headstones, and think of their lives, as well as their deaths.

The  current owners of the land were quite helpful, and suggested we might also be able to find my grandfather’s grave in a nearby church cemetery, about two miles from the farm. My grandfather, still a young man at that point, remarried after his first wife's death, and had  three more children, my father's half brothers. Indeed, we found his grave; he passed in 1939, two years before I was born. Sadly, I never got to meet him.

When I was a young boy, I recall my dad explaining a partially used cough drop, which he had placed in the drawer where we kept household tools and such. This “junk drawer cough drop,” was in my grandfather’s mouth when he died. I never questioned why it was now in that drawer, but perhaps opening the drawer to get a tool, brought a pleasant memory of my grandfather, for my father.

When our day of family research ended, and we returned home, I could not get all of these good folks, my family, out of my mind. As a result, I wrote this poem with the intent of honoring them. I hope, somehow, they are aware of my thoughts and feelings. Some of us may have the privilege of living a long life, or like them, a shortened one; regardless, we should all be aware, we are only passing through.

A soft breeze, a slight chill
The Oak bows low, whispering it's lullaby
Gently waving it's leaf-laden branches, a Maestro,
Keeping time with the music of the Kentucky hills
It's duty, it's love, lies so near
Lies low, lies still, listening for feint recognition
Sweet music of the leaves, now surrounding her,
Enveloping sweet child, Eula
But she lies not alone, no, no,
Her mother, disparaged, lies near,
Reaching for her
Her brothers too, near, standing guard,
Protecting their sister,
Watching over their mother
There is love, beneath the sweet sod of Edmonson County
Love beneath this mighty Oak
Tragedy, too, now long forgotten
Once they dreamed of days of plenty, but now,
They listen to Meadowlark, from beneath crude stone markers
Watching, as the conductor waives his colorful baton
Oh, but wait; their father, and mother's husband, Jesse
Lies not two miles from them,
Apart, but no matter, for their spirits, and his, Live elsewhere now
No longer cold, no longer lonely,
They live with the Saints
Family once again; family for eternity

Contact James
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Story list and biography for James

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher