some people don't like cemeteries. It's understandable. What you are looking at is the ground I will be buried in though. The ground where both my mother's grandparents where buried in. Her parents will lie there as well as her brother's and sisters and she and her husband. Lot's of aunts and uncles in there too, and behind me somewhere there are family friends and these precious little ones. I wish I'd had my camera to capture to beauty of this place. To show you it's gentle little hills and southern shade. The country air just permeates your senses, you're among family after all.
But these little ones, they are what capture me each and every time. Here is what you need to understand about these photos above. Each tombstone represents an infant. Each photo is one families plot. I don't know the details but each one dates before 1940, a couple are late 1800's. See the flowers on the second photo? One man lost 7 children between two wives over 30 years. I can tell only that much from the inscriptions. These little tombstones dot that whole graveyard. So what? you say, we put flowers on graves too, don't we. Yes we do, but 80 years later? it isn't the mothers putting these flowers here. These mother's died in 1940-1960 something. We are talking 3rd or 4th generation grave tending here. Meet Lorene, Josephine, Billie Mae and Ruth...
Let's add a little context. Most of these tombstones where placed during the depression era in a community that was already dirt poor. These markings cost money even then. These families did not talk about these babies most likely. Their siblings would not likely know about them if they were younger. Infant/maternity mortality rates during that time period where devastating...
At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and approximately 100 infants died before age 1 year (1,2). From 1915 through 1997, the infant mortality rate declined greater than 90% to 7.2 per 1000 live births, and from 1900 through 1997, the maternal mortality rate declined almost 99% to less than 0.1 reported death per 1000 live births (7.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1997) (3) (Figure 1 and Figure 2). courtesy of the CDC
so we lose less babies now, I guess. That doesn't really matter except that I guess somewhere in my thinking and knowing this I thought maybe people where stronger, more numb to this loss back then, pioneer blood still toughening skin, that kind of thing. That we are a more sensitive and enlightened generation.
Look at these tombstones, look at those flowers.
These little ones won't be forgotten. No matter how common their passing was, no matter how preoccupied, how poverty stricken, how many children followed, they won't be forgotten. They are remembered because they where tiny souls, seeds of hope, joy and grief solidly planted by their mother's hopes for them.
It all means something doesn't it? The taking and the giving. The mourning and the living.
There is something beautiful about this place to me. It's like a list of future neighbors in heaven, one tiny soul after the next sure to be gathered into arms, whole and healthy by a loving Father. A garden of wishes presented to our God.
Let me end like this. Thank you to the mama's I know who share this hope, who tend this garden. It is not an easy task to have but one God saw fit to bestow because of your green thumb, because He knew you would plant the seeds so lovingly. Before I would have looked here and only seen sadness but now because of you, God has sprouted something so very good in my own heart. Thank you.