Monday, March 30, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (Week 13): Nearly Forgotten

Amy Johnson Crow from Generations Cafe is hosting a blog writing prompt this year called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  Since I need a swift kick in the you-know-what to get me blogging more regularly again, I thought I'd jump in.  I like that she gives us "permission" to interpret the prompt however we wish and share it however we wish.  It doesn't have to be a blog post; it could be a family video, a letter to a child or grandchild, an e-mail, etc.  I'm probably going to be always behind on this exercise so don't go by the date and week I'm writing about and take it as accurate.  

When I was a child, it was common practice to go to the family cemetery(ies) fairly frequently and clean up around the graves of our loved ones.  This was before the days of perpetual care.  These were (still are) country churches where the only lawn care was cutting the grass around the church.  There was nobody but a person's family to keep the weeds and ants from taking over their headstone.  

Maybe that's why I still enjoy visiting cemeteries (and my deep, abiding addiction to family history and genealogy!) .  When I go to Georgia to visit, we always end up at a cemetery before the visit is over.  With this last visit, we visited probably no less than 5!!  I do believe that every person should be memorialized and remembered after they are gone.  There should be a marker, a sign on a crypt, or information added to a sign to announce that someone was here and lived between those dashes.  With the popularity of cremation, markers are becoming more scarce.  I realize in many instances, the choice of cremation is based on financial means.  However, maybe there should be a wall in each cemetery on which those people's names and dates could be listed so that family and friends can visit.  (Similar to the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.  It is very moving for a family to find their loved one's name on that wall.)  That should be much less expensive than a headstone.  

I would go so far as to say that when there is no grave nor crypt, the person becomes nearly forgotten.  

Before I was even thought about or a twinkle in my mama's eye as us southerners say, my parents had a child in 1963.  A boy who was premature and only lived eight hours.  They named him Michael Edward Tapley.  My parents were living in Jacksonville, Florida at the time, had not been together much more than a year, and had very little money.  Michael was buried at Restlawn Memorial Park in Jacksonville, Florida.  There was no money to place a marker on his grave.  Life went on, my parents left Jacksonville, and there little Michael laid there - nearly forgotten.

Fast forward some 30 odd years later.  I, the little sister, am now an adult and want to help my parents - especially my father who was nearing the end of his life - do this honor they were unable to do at the time.

So I went to Restlawn.  We found through their records exactly where his grave was.  I contacted someone who did grave markers at this cemetery.  Several months later, Michael Edward Tapley was memorialized. 

No longer "nearly forgotten"
Please see a previous post about my brother here.  

Then there was my Uncle Jack Dempsey Tapley.  Uncle Dempsey lived with us for a time when I was a child.  So naturally, we were close.  I have written on this blog before about our relationship and how even those we looked up to as children were merely human and made mistakes.  That does not change the fact that he was my uncle and he was very good to me.  

He moved out, and I grew up.  We lost touch.  I think I only saw him once as an adult.  Then in 1994, I received word that he had passed away.  I must have found out too late to even attend his funeral.  Some more years passed, and I finally began to look for where he was buried.  I discovered he was buried in Augusta, Georgia at Hillcrest Memorial Park.  Then I found out he had no grave marker!  I was shocked and outraged.  He deserved his memorial.  He had been nearly forgotten by his immediate family and by me for many years.  So I worked to make it right.  With help from my father and a cousin, I got a marker put on Uncle Dempsey's resting place.  Now Hillcrest is one of those perpetual care places, but I still check in occasionally when I'm visiting.  I have had to bring the office's attention to the condition of his marker now and again.  The last time I visited, it was in perfect condition.  I will not let him be nearly forgotten again.   


I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
By Linda Ellis, Copyright © 2020 Inspire Kindness,

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