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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Something to Remember You By

I bought my father's grave marker yesterday.  Nearly four months after he died.  I don't know what took me so long -- for awhile there I actually forgot about it.  I'm not big on visiting dead relatives, although I love cemeteries.   My loved ones aren't really there. But it's a testament that someone has been here, made their mark on the world and left.   I'd made big plans to put his Natchez poem on the stone, but in the end I decided it wasn't appropriate.

So I drove out to Natchez Monument Company and looked through their catalogue.  It's amazing the array of stones and benches available.  You can have pictures put on them.  Lazer etchings that look three dimensional.  You can add a photo of your loved one if you like.  You can get black, white and pink granite, polished or unpolished.  Slanted markers, straight markers.  But they all look so new.

I love the Natchez Cemetery.  The old grave markers are works of art.  Marble angels, obelisks, broken obelisks with ivy carved on them, pedastals, lambs, cradles, tree trunks, mausoleums, all softened with the patina of hundreds of years.  Some have elaborate wrought iron fences around them.  Some only have the gate left or part of the fence, all nestled under the moss-laden branches of ancient, giant oaks.  It makes the shining new monuments look almost garish in comparison.

In the end I decided an obelisk would be the closest I would come to an old-fashioned monument.  I wondered what to put on it.  Finally, I simply decided on this:

William Howard Pritchartt, Jr.

April 14, 1926 - March 5, 2013

Beloved Father

Veni, Vidi, Vici

When we said our prayers as children at night, we always ended with, "Veni, Vidi, Vici."  I came, I saw, I conquered.  And my father did that.  He was a self-made man who grabbed life by the horns and rode it for all it was worth.

I drove to the cemetery in the evening and looked at our family plot.  There's room left for one more.  I'd like to be buried there when my time comes.  The grave is settling, the mound a little lower than before.  The remains of some peacock feathers were strewn about, put there by a dear friend who knew how much my father loved the peacock she tends at a crumbling old mansion in the country with its own ancient cemetery.  Some of my own ancestors are interred there.  Ancestors I didn't even know about until recently.  Some of the stones are so old, it's hard to see the names, like many at the Natchez City Cemetery.

I thought back to a day I spent with Daddy in the country when he was feeling his mortality.  He talked about people dying:  

"You know, when people die," he said, " really doesn't matter who they were or what they did.  Theyre only remembered by the few people who knew them.  And once those people are gone, you're forgotten.  It's like you were never here at all."

He couldn't imagine not being remembered.  It reminded me of a novel I once read called The Brief History of the Dead.   In the story whenever someone died they went to the realm of the dead, which was very similar to the realm of the living.  As long as someone remembers the person who died and the world they lived in, they lived an alternate existence.  It wasn't until the last person died who remembered you that your own little universe -- and you -- truly ceased to exist.  There was a plague and everyone was dying.  Universes expanded and winked out of existence until the last person on earth had died.  And I guess that's kind of how it is.

Sleep well, Daddy.  You are not forgotten.