Finding Mother’s Gravestone

My brother and I drove from Frazee, Minnesota to Gray Eagle, Minnesota, another town off the beaten path.  We drove across lovely verdant farm fields the road curved up and down gentle hills.  The corn was green and tall, the soybean fields often had corn that had come from last years crop.

Gray Eagle roadWe arrived in the very small town of Gray Eagle and we realized we didn’t actually remember where the graveyard was.  We stopped in a gas station, Gene pumped gas and I went in to ask.

“Where is the graveyard?”

“Which graveyard?”  the girl behind the counter asked back.

I stood there in shock, I didn’t know there was more than one graveyard in this little town.  Embarrassed, because I didn’t remember even the name of the graveyard, I motioned with my arm and said, “I don’t know the name.  It was out of town and up a hill.”

She nodded, “Just go to the next gas station, the Sinclair with a dinosaur, and turn right.  Go out of town then turn right again.  Go up the hill and you’ll find it.”

“Thanks, so much,”  I smiled relieved she knew what I was talking about.

With her simple directions we drove right to the graveyard.  As we walked up to the gravesite I pictured the day we’d interred Mother’s ashes there.  My older brother Dennis dug the hole with a post hole digger we had brought with.  As light rain fell he broke the sod and dug straight down into the deep rich soil that had nurtured my ancestors.  Dennis learned how to use a post hole digger on the farm digging for water in our sandbox.  We tried to lower her ashes slowly on a rope, but they tipped and fell down, down into that narrow hole.  We carefully filled the hole and marked the spot.  My son, John recited the poem she had written so many times on little slips of paper in her bedroom during the last days of her life:

Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all-

We all thought she’d written it, until I was telling my hairdresser about her death I didn’t even mentioned the poem.  She suddenly got up left the room and came back  with a book of poems by Emily Dickinson open to this poem.  It was a message from Mother, She would never want us to say she wrote the poem if she hadn’t, and it was her way to give us a message that there is something more . . .

I had ordered a gravestone to be placed there for her, but had not until that day gone back to check on it.  I was grateful to see it there 20 years later marking her dates so we might remember 1913-1998, the life of a wonder lady.

Gray Eagle Sheila marker

My mother Sheila’s, Gravestone.

The Thompson my grandmother’s family stone, and my mother’s sister Marjorie, all together there in that beautiful place.

If you read the book Visions from Two Continents you will meet Marjorie and the Thompsons along with the story of Sheila running away to be with her cousins in Gray Eagle.

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