A Life Forgotten

August 5, 2012
By leytonelyse BRONZE, Paragould, Arkansas
leytonelyse BRONZE, Paragould, Arkansas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Our feet skidded along the pavement, each step getting heavier than the last. The sound of our movement had drastically changed as our feet transitioned from the dark asphalt to the light green grass. Our tour guide’s voice droned on and I grew tired and zoned out. For the last twenty minutes, I had only been half-paying attention to the woman’s words about death and sorrow. I tried to distract my mind with images of the gentle wind blowing through the weeping willow’s wispy leaves and the sun’s rays reflecting off the cool, still waters of the pond, rather than letting my mind travel down a morbid path. However, her now delicate words sparked my interest as she began describing the next tombstone we would visit.

Our footsteps grew silent as we stood by a single grave not far from the path. Brightly colored birds flitted from branch to branch in the large trees overhead. Their bodies became flashes of red and yellow flying through the air. They sang soft, mournful songs, almost in homage to the deceased. They swooped down and circled the massive headstone made in a girl’s memorial.

Immediately, my eyes became glued to the structure. I examined the stone, looking for an epitaph. I saw where hand-carved letters used to be, but the words written on the stone were difficult to decipher. The text had faded with the passing of seasons long ago, and what portions of it were legible had been covered in ages of dirt and grime. I glanced at my feet and saw the small, marble dog that lay where the frail girl’s feet should. His white fur had become dappled with spots of dried earth. The dog seemed like a Scottish terrier, but it was hard to discern what its actual breed was. He was resting on a small, concrete block, waiting for any command given by his master.

I scanned the area around me and only saw a greater sea of graves occasionally set apart by an immense, intricate mausoleum. The guide began her description about this particular grave and started describing who its owner was. She explained that a small child’s body had once lain in the ground beneath our feet.

Now my mind felt fully engaged in this tour. As I gazed at this memorial, I did not know anything about this girl, but I could instantly relate to her. We both had hopes. We both had dreams. We both had things we wanted to accomplish in life. However, I knew that she would never again be given the chance to fulfill those wishes. Her dreams of a happy life would soon be forgotten along with other memories of the past. They were stored away to never be explored again. All I could ask myself was, “Could that happen to me?” Fear shook though my body as I came to a dark realization. I instantly understood that it wasn’t dying that scared me; it was the fear of being forgotten.

I attempted to shake away the fear, but I could still feel it creeping inside of me. “Why had the girl’s family decided to place this dog at her feet?” I stared at the dog and its purpose made sense now. Her family had placed these memorials here to make sure she wasn’t forgotten. They had been placed here not as a symbol of her death, but as a reminder of her life. These stone structures were made in her honor to keep her dreams alive.

My newfound realizations and understandings about life danced around in my head. I let them linger there for a moment longer and pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind. I knew I could not explore their deeper meanings then. I would need some time alone to contemplate their full value, and could not achieve that there. The wind picked up again and whisked my hair behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the group starting to slowly move away from the grave. I picked up my feet and continued our tour down this dark path.

The author's comments:
I wrote this while at a summer camp called Summer Ink: Boston and Beyond. We were given the chance to tour the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts. After our tour was over, I wrote down my thoughts and feelings about the cemetery in my journal. I later decided that I particularly liked this piece of work, started refining it and this is what it morphed into.

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