It's a Small World
December 12, 2013
Submitted by Guest Blogger Cathi Johnson
On November 11, 2001, my oldest daughter Ashley was killed in a car accident. Each of the twelve years since, I have take 11.11 as a personal day, seeking no human interaction, a time for reflection and nowhere to go, no place to be. I do what feels right, when it feels right.
This year was no different. I intended to go to Elmwood shortly after they opened, but got involved in something else at home, so I left for Elmwood when I got done.
In the section where I do most of my volunteer stone preservation work, Chapel Hill 2, single infant burials from the late 1880s, I started doing a little lawn maintenance, dragging downed tree limbs from the far end to the curb. As I walked to the curb, a truck stopped right in front of me.
“Darn,” I thought. “People. Now I have to interact.”
I could have nodded hello and turned away, but when a man emerged from the truck holding a map and gazing about in bewilderment, I felt the need to offer my services. “May I help you?” I asked.
Grunt. Awkward silence. Then a mumbled, “They keep moving these things around.”
More silence as I digested that statement. Er, what exactly could he be thinking was being moved around? In a cemetery?
The man was still standing there clutching the map. He did not offer it to me to look at, nor did he ask a question. I tentatively leaned closer, keeping my feet in place. Grudgingly, he finally allowed me to see the map. It was indeed a map of Elmwood, and someone from the office had marked in red the location of a burial. He was in the right place – Chapel Hill 2.
Emboldened, I asked for the name of the person they were looking for. “Louis Kummerer,” he said. “I know exactly where that child is buried!” I replied. “Come with me.”
Eager now, the man and woman carefully followed me across the uneven grass to Louis’ marker. During my volunteer work, I had found the cradle portion in three pieces, and the upright headstone broken from its base, lying 5 feet away. Each piece has been restored and re-set. I admit I felt some pride as I presented them to Louis.
I discovered that the man and woman were mother and son, and that Louis was her father’s infant brother. And now, years later, his family was reclaiming him, remembering him, mourning him.
Silently, I left them there and went back to my work. But on this day, set aside every year to honor the memory of Ashley, when I could have arrived earlier and been gone by the time they parked the truck, or not offered to help, or not been shown the map, I marvel at how small the world really is.