Monday, October 18, 2010

The Tombstone of Good Character.

"A good character is the best tombstone.
Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have whithered.
Carve your name on hearts,
not marble."

-Charles H. Spurgeon

This quote was in our church bulletin Sunday morning and I liked it and kept thinking of it throughout the day.  I had been locked up busy in the kitchen all weekend, cooking and packing food for the freezer, but I could not be kept inside again with the gusty but warm fall day we had.  Violet had been out flying her kite,

 and when she came back in, I asked if she'd like to take a walk to the graveyard.  I knew it was a dumb question.  She asks to go walk up there so often and just as often receives, "No, not today" for an answer, that it felt marvelous to surprise her (I love this age when kids are so easily excited).

Why would my daughter want so badly to go visit the graveyard?

Our house was built in 1850, and the people who built it, the Shaeffers, and their kin
are buried across the street in the middle of the cornfield.
There is a pathway of grass up to it from the road for people who want to go visit it, and Violet likes to go visit the site.

The Shaeffers, although so many years have passed, are remembered for something that they did.


  When Violet was almost 4 years old, our neighboring farmer gave us a tiny calf that he didn't want to fool with.  It was the size of our dog, and calves that small need extra attention to stay alive, and even then, they very often die.  We had that calf for a week and needless to say, Violet got very attached to it.

  I remember seeing her out on the lawn lying beside it, talking away, stroking it's soft black fur.  It was too weak to walk very far and spent most of the day lying in the grass sleeping.  It slept in a rubbermaid in our basement at night.

Very suddenly, it got sick,
and in the afternoon, it died.
Violet just thought it was sleeping, but I could see it was no longer alive.

I didn't know how to tell Violet or what to say.

How do you explain death to a 3 year old?

That night, Shawn told Violet her calf had died and we were very sorry.
She didn't say anything at all.

The next day, she and I had to go somewhere, and as we were leaving, she piped up,
"Wait!  I didn't say goodbye to my calf!"

I then realized why she'd said nothing when we told her the calf had died.
I responded, 
"Violet, your calf died.  It couldn't breathe anymore because it got sick, and it stopped living.  Daddy buried it out back behind the field.  You can't see it alive anymore."

I could hear her sobbing in the back seat and she cried all the way to where we were going.  I kept telling her I was so sorry and tried to keep my own eyes clear to drive the truck.
She now understood death.

Since that time, Violet has a real sensitivity to death.  Someone we know experienced the death of a child, and I didn't dare go to the funeral because I didn't have anyone to babysit and was afraid Violet wouldn't be able to handle it.  I couldn't stop crying myself.  She was given a picture of the child from the child's sibling, and when I suggested that maybe she should give it back, she refused, telling me it was hers.

  When my Grandfather died last year, she came over to me and put her arms around my shoulders, crying herself.  She told me she was so sorry my Grandpa was gone.

Sometime after the calf incident, we took a walk up to the graveyard and looked at the stones.
  This is the stone of the people who built our house,
John and Catherine Shaeffer.  Her marker is on the front of the stone, and his is on the back of the same.

Beside their stones is their sons and daughter stones and their spouses, and some of their children's children.
There are 2 tiny gravemarkers up there for two little babies.  I mentioned this to Violet and she wanted to see them better and know their names.

Daisy May lived to 9 months old.

Minnie E lived to be 8 months.

When we found out we were going to have another baby, Violet wanted us to name it Daisy because of the baby who used to live here that died.  (She thinks they lived in our house, but I don't know that for sure.)  And everyday of my pregnancy Violet prayed that our baby wouldn't die.  She worried for the first 3 months of Lillie's life until I finally talked to her about it and told her she shouldn't live her life worrying about death; that God wouldn't let something happen to us that He wouldn't help us get through.  He loves us and wants what is best for us, so if Lillie is meant to live here, she will live.  But when a baby dies, it flies up to heaven and is happier there than it could ever be here. 

Life on the farm is hard.

  Life and death are hard.

So when I read the quote this morning, I just kept thinking about what a great truth that is,
that we all only have one life on this earth and then we go into life hereafter.

These people who built our home 160 years ago are still talked about and here's why:

Also buried in the graveyard up there are the Jackson family, a husband, wife, and their boy who died at 16.
This family, as we've been told by people who have lived around these parts for generations through whom tales continue to pass, were black.  They were servants to the Shaeffers.  This was the time right around the civil war.  A time when prejudice, anger, conflict, upheaval was everywhere in our country.  It's been told that John Schaeffer's brother is thought to have died in the civil war b/c there is no record of his death.  He built the brick house on the end of our road.

But they are all buried together up there in the graveyard, the Shaeffers and the Jacksons,
not 15 feet from each other.
The Schaeffers are still remembered today
because they loved their servants and had them buried with them in the graveyard.

Their character has followed them
to the people who now dwell in the house that they built.

And my daughter likes to go up and visit the spot where they are buried
and show her little brother where the people are buried with their babies
"who used to live in our house."

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  1. This is a really beautiful post. It's a great reminder about our time here and how best to use it. Thanks for sharing with us. Also these are some beautiful pictures too.

  2. What a beautiful post. You have such a gift. God used you in my life today. Thank you, Tonya.

  3. Hey sweetie, I just spotted your comment on an older post and wanted to thank you for your visit.

    Life has been hectic to say the least. I'd been down in Brownsville spendin' time with my Daddy who lost his very long (30yrs) battle with leukemia. I've just now been tryin' to catch up to speed and still spinnin' my wheels a bit!

    God bless ya and please drop by anytime, the door of the Ponderosa is always open!!! :o)

  4. Thanks so much for the very moving story. The reality of death is the one thing we can't seem to be ablt to protect our children from no matter how much we would like to. Farm kids have to learn it sooner it seems. So much life and so much death on a farm. You are a good mom.

  5. Thanks everyone. I enjoy writing and appreciate it when others enjoy reading it. I feel like I'm constantly learning life's lessons, not so easy. So sorry about your dad, Nezzy. That is so hard.
    And Michaele, I read about your dog. Sorry about his loss. It's hard to lose pets, too.

  6. Hey pretty girl, I'm your newest follower, as I loved your post. What a great story about your farm and the're little beauty is an intelligent, sensitive little girl, God bless her. So nice to know the story behind the place you live in. Thank you for sharing.

  7. And NONE of this would have happened for your children if you lived in town, I'm just SURE of it.

    Wonderful post.

  8. Hello my friend...

    Thank you so much for sharing this endearing post with us for the Sunday Favorites repost party this week! I really enjoyed reading it! I remember my children's first experience with death. Their paternal grandfather passed away. All three of my girls were very young. It really is a difficult thing to do...introducing that aspect of living..."death" a small child! I am so thankful that we have the promise that the Lord gave us...that we shall meet again!!! As the Psalmist wrote..."Oh death, where is your sting?" Knowing that death is just a temporary separation gives me such peace!

    Have a wonderful day today, my friend!
    Chari @Happy To Design

  9. I enjoyed your post so much; I, too, like visiting cemeteries. Not any cemetery but the ones where my relatives and ancestors are buried. The graveyards are green and beautiful, flowers blooming or in vases; I never tire of reading the tombstones. I will be buried next to my Daddy (if the Lord tarries) and I will be raptured with all the grandparents and great grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, many whom I have never met. But we will be called into the sky with Jesus, all of us Christians together...and there shall we ever be with the Lord.


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