Stacked in a dark corner of my garden, supporting the Buddha, are three flat stones. One of them is a gravestone. My father and I took it from a country church graveyard, about a mile away from the little white frame house he’d been born in some seventy-five years ago. He and my aunt called the place Leatherwood. It’s not on a map and I’ve never seen a sign for it. It’s where the Minter’s come from.
My father had lived most of his life in Martinsville. The tragic death of his father made him an orphan. He left the country and lived with his uncle in the small mill town. He had been six years old. My father wasn’t a “talker” and never spoke of his childhood.
One late fall afternoon, we were having a drink together. After a wonderful silence, he said, “I want to show you where our people are buried.” The quest to reconnect and forgive began.
The next day we stood in front of his father’s grave. The sixteen by twenty-four inch marble gravestone was weathered and parts of it where blueish-green from lichen. We couldn’t read the epitaph.
When I moved the black crayon back and forth across the surface of the paper, the worn edges of carved letters introduced themselves to us. Putting the crayon in my pocket, we read the inscription.
Show him, O Lord, Thy mercy.
For a few minutes, neither spoke. Being a talker, I had to say something. “What a crappy thing to put on someone’s headstone. That’s horrible.”
My father remained silent. He continued to stare at the epitaph. He turned and began walking back to my car, the frozen grass and brown leaves crunching under his feet. All I could hear on the drive back to his house was the car’s engine and the tires on the road. Then he said, “His brothers were self- righteous. Judgmental too it seems. That marker is a shame. No one deserves that.”
Midway through Once Upon a Time in the West, a thought came to me. That inscription had stayed in my brain, the arrogance, the attitude. “Let’s get rid of it and put up a new one.”
“Can we do that?”
“No one’s taking care of that graveyard. Who’s going by? Is there anyone left from his family?”
“Hell yeah, let’s do it. I’ll write a new epitaph.”
The only monument company I could find that could match the marble, style and dimensions of the original gravestone was in Rock Hill, SC. My father produced the new epitaph, and we ordered the new stone. It was a cold, late February afternoon when we returned to the church.
Clarence, my father’s good friend, could make and fix anything. He was with us. Removing the old stone was harder than we thought. After much hard work and sweat, the new stone was in place. The three of us admired the new, bright white gravestone and its crisp new inscription. Then Clarence broke the silence, “February 28, 1936. Well, don’t that beat all.”
“How’s that?” asked my father.
“Y’all know what today is don’t ya?”
No one said a word.
Clarence said, “February 28th .”
He sowed with a strong hand.
Owen R. Minter was inspired to write The Shrouded Sword, a fantasy story filled with ancient magic and time travel, after creating a drawing based on Arthurian legend. The Shrouded Sword is the first book in the Gramarye Cycle series. When he’s not writing, Owen makes paintings with a leaf blower, reads, and enjoys coaching Special Olympics Athletics.
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