Name on a Tombstone by DaleL

Word Count – 1,170

They’d delivered it the other day; the granite marker for her grave. Done by an undertaker down Yerba Buena way, it was. Fine piece of polished granite, special ordered and freighted in. Nothing like it in the whole cemetery. Rosebuds, their stems twisted together, were set in a circle carved near its head then the words, just like he wanted…

Catherine Garrett Lancer

1822-1845

Mother Daughter Wife

Shame it was, her passing like that, leaving that tiny new baby and all. Right pretty boy once he was cleaned up a bit. Had a tuft of fair hair and long fingers. She told me his name was Scott. Couldn’t recall anyone having that name before but it suit him somehow.

Now, I understand her husband wanting to get her outta harm’s way what with the way things were. All the burning and looting and such. Haney and his gang of cutthroats were causing a world of hurt but they still had no business dragging her from pillar to post with her so near her time. Practically jostled that baby right outta her.

And her father, bound and determined he was to get to Yerba Buena. Back to ‘civilization’ as he put it. Even after the baby came he said they were leaving the next morning. Wouldn’t listen to me when I said she needed rest and quiet after all she’d been through.

They’d pulled up to my place, one of the men riding with her knocking on my door, saying she needed help. One look told me all I needed to know. And I’d seen the look her father gave me and my place. I know I’m not much to look at, least ways not anymore. Years and hard work’ll do it to a body. But my place, well, the roof is sound and its clean.

Once we got her inside I helped her outta her things and into the bed. Poor thing was done in but she introduced herself and apologized for all the bother they were putting me through. Apologized for her father’s rudeness as well. A real lady, she was. And not uppity in the least.

To pass the time, she showed me the blanket and gowns she’d made for her baby. Fine work, all neat, tiny stitches. She’d only brought a few things since she planned on going home once the baby was able. Said she had no intention of going to Boston regardless of what her husband and father had planned. She’d wanted to have her baby in her own home but had been convinced by her husband it would be safer for her and the baby to leave. Agreed to leave but not to go to Boston, on that she was firm.

Soon her pains were coming fast and furious. I’d tied a sheet to the headboard for her to grab onto. As it was, it took that baby a good long while to be born. Once I got them both situated I had gone to tell her father he had a grandson. Let him visit for a spell, telling him she needed rest. That’s when he told me they’d be leaving in the morning. I argued she was in no shape to travel specially in no wagon. On a good day you felt like your innards were tied in knots what with all the bouncing around. He looked at me as if I were some simpleton.

True to his word they were on their way at first light. I did all I could, hoping her husband would show up and stop this nonsense. One of her men had lit out for home to let him know what was happening but it’d take time to ride there and back.

I hoped for the best but it weren’t to be.

The same man who knocked on my door the other day rode up to the house a few hours later. Said they were on their way back cause she’d taken sick. He couldn’t tell me much ‘cept she’d gone real pale and quiet.

It was nearly an hour before they pulled in ‘cause they were travelling easy. Her father wouldn’t let me into the wagon but had her taken straight into the house. I looked anyway. It was what I feared. She’d bled. The pallet I’d done up was soaked in blood.

As it was there was nothing I could do. She’d already lost too much. Would it have happened anyway? Only the good Lord knows. All I could think was why hadn’t they sent one of her women with her? Something might have been done before it had gone this far.

The blessing was she didn’t suffer.

Now I know everyone grieves in their own way but her father was one cold-hearted man. I had spent some time making her presentable. Figured he would wait now; wait for her husband to get here.

I was wrong.

After viewing the body, her father pulled out his wallet and handed me some bills. Told me it was to pay for the burial and a tombstone. Left real detailed instructions on the kind and wording of the stone. Didn’t stay to see her put proper into the ground. Just packed up that new baby and left.

I saw to the burial and ordered the stone like he wanted. Kinda sad, just me and a couple of other folks to see her on her way. All I could think was how she’d come all the way from Boston only to end up here, in Carterville of all places.

Her husband rode in a few days later. Headed out soon as he’d paid his respects. Don’t rightly know what happened after that. I always figured he caught up with her father and took his boy home. A boy needs his father. That’s what she would have wanted.

But we’re more than just a name on a tombstone, aren’t we? Like the Good Book says, there’s a time to be born and a time to die but in between there’s a whole lot of living to be done. Catherine, well she weren’t blessed with that many years but from what I gathered she’d have figured it time well spent. Now I don’t pretend to know her mind but women talk to pass the time if nothing else while waiting on a baby. I truly hope all the dreams she had for her boy panned out.

Sometimes I wonder what became of him, Catherine’s boy. I’m sure he’s been a comfort to his pa ‘cause the man likely grieved something fierce, losing his wife the way he did. Gave him something to focus on other than his loss. And in a way, he still has something of her to hang onto in that baby they made. Who knows, maybe one day, the two of them might stop by and pay her a visit.

July 2022

**Note: Entwined rosebuds signified a woman lost in childbirth on Victorian era tombstones.

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9 thoughts on “Name on a Tombstone by DaleL

    1. Hi, Helen. I thought there should be a little follow-up to the story of Catherine. Thanks for reading and taking the time to let me know you enjoyed it.

      Dale

      Like

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