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To Be Remembered
It was not an exceptionally gorgeous day that day. The sun was shining, but it was cloudy. There was a slight breeze, but it left a chill in the air. No, it was not anything special at first, but I will always remember that day.
It was a Monday, Memorial Day, my mother, sister, and I were going to visit my grandparents’ graves. It was an emotional time for them, but I had been so young when they passed away that any memory I had of them was fleeting and left only a twinge of regret. Regret that I was not saddened by the memory; they deserved better than that. However, try as I might, the only sadness I felt was for never really knowing them.
As they did every other year, my mother and sister picked some of the roses growing beside out home to place on the graves. I usually did not participate in the picking of the roses because I felt that someone who actually knew the people should be the ones to pick. This year, though, after they were done, I went out and chose several of the ones remaining, but for what, I had no idea.
We pulled into the parking lot of the cemetery and I gathered my roses in my arms as I stepped out of the car. Just as I was joining my mother and sister, a cool breeze blew through causing one of the smaller roses I had stacked precariously in my arms to be carried away. Unwilling to let it go, I turned to follow it.
“I’ll be right back,” I called to my mother as they headed in the opposite direction to my family’s section of graves. She nodded absently, but was too distracted to comment.
I finally caught up to my fallen rose, but it no longer held my attention. Looking around, I noticed I was in a very old section of the cemetery. This was evident by the small, weathered tombstones and the lack of colorful Memorial Day flowers. A wave of sadness hit me; these people had no one to remember them, no one to care. At least I did have some memories of my grandparents, but this small section of people did not appear to have any memories left on earth. I knew what I was going to do with my flowers.
At each grave, I paused to read the inscription on the stone and then placed a single rose at the base of it. The plot was small, but as I got to the last person, I found my hands were empty; I did not have enough roses. I read what I could from the weathered headstone. Everything was worn away except for his first name and the dates of his short life. His name was William and he was born in 1840 and died in 1861. Just as I was turning to go, I spotted the small rose that I had lost earlier. I went and got it to place in front of the last grave.
“I’m sorry William, this is all I have left,” I felt the need to apologize because it looked so pitiful lying there.
“Did you know him?”
I jump up, startled by the sudden appearance of the man behind me. “Oh…uh…no. No, I was just…” I raised my hand and gestured weakly around in explanation. The man probably thinks I’m crazy, talking to the grave of someone I don’t know, I thought to myself. “1861 was a bit before my time.”
He chuckled slightly, “Yeah, I suppose it was. So are any of these your ancestors then?” He asked, obviously still puzzled as to why I was there.
“No, not that I know of,” I answered.
“So, then, why?” He asked as he picked up the rose I had just put on the last grave and studied it intently.
“I don’t know. I guess I didn't want to leave them out. I figured that if they don’t have anyone to remember them, the least I could do would be to remember them for a day.”
The stranger had a sad, faraway look in his eyes when he replied, “I’m sure they would like that, to be remembered, if only briefly.” He gently placed the rose back on the grave. “Thank you, miss…”
“Jenny, my name is Jenny,” I offered at his pause.
“Jenny,” his lips turned up at the corner in a crooked grin, “thank you, for thinking of the ones forgotten.”
“Oh, um, it’s nothing,” I stammered out, embarrassed by the stranger thanking me for something I had not planned to do.
“I’m sure they wouldn't think it’s nothing,” he spread his hands to indicate the graves around us.
I gave him a small shrug as I studied him from the corner of my eye. He was rather young, probably in his early twenties. “Were any of them your ancestors?” I asked, suddenly curious as to why he was there.
He was quiet for a few seconds before responding, “Yeah, I suppose you could say that.”
We stood there for a while, silently, before I realized I still had somewhere to be. “Well, I better head over to my grandparents’ graves before my mother starts looking for me.” I took one last look at William’s grave before turning to leave, “It was nice to meet you…”
“William,” the stranger supplied. I gave a startled laugh at the coincidence, but quickly suppressed it in case he thought I was laughing at him. A quick glance showed he still had the same crooked grin.
“It was nice meeting you too, Jenny.” William said as I walked back through the headstones. “Oh, and thanks for the rose, the small one is my favorite anyway.”
I freeze mid-step as his words registered in my mind. Slowly I turned around, but William was nowhere in sight. Surely he was just messing with me, I thought to myself, but even as I finished that thought, a cool breeze swept by my ear and I heard his quiet chuckle.
It has been ten years since the day I met William. Now I stand in the same spot as I had all those years ago. I saved my last rose, the smallest one, for the last grave in the row, just as I have every year since. As I kneel down to place the tiny flower by the headstone, a slight, cool breeze blows across my face.
“Did you know him?”
I close my eyes as a voice I have not heard in ten years, but still remember, speaks softly behind me. “No, 1861 was a bit before my time,” I whisper in reply.
I hear the same chuckle from my memory, then, “Yeah, I suppose it was, but I had feeling the two of you had met.”
I rise slowly and turn around. He is exactly as I remember him; he has not aged a day and the same crooked grin is in place. “You know, I think I did know him, I’m starting to remember,” I reply with a grin of my own.
“Well,” he replies, “I’m sure he’d like that, to be remembered.”