A Memory jog …
Most of our patients had very short life spans so it was difficult to get a close relationship; but the exception in my case was Ernest. He lived for over six months and we became fast friends. He was a 74 year old black man who lived 6 miles north of me so it was easy to stay in touch and we did so almost daily.
Ernest lived in a small cement block house that he had built years before. It was primitive but very snug with a simple front porch. The house was situated to the rear of the property and overlooked the land that had been in Ernest’s family for centuries. His many acres of open fields were rented by nearby farmers to plant tobacco and cotton.
Ernest explained it to me one day as we sat rocking on his front porch. It seems that his grandfather had loved the gnarled and stark-looking dead trees on his farm. When he died and they couldn’t afford a memorial stone, they thought to cut down one of his beloved trees and to use that. It soon became a tradition. Ernest told me the story of each of the “statues” and who was commemorated there. He said they were re-sanded and oiled yearly and that was what gave them their lovely patinas. The two small trunks with intertwining branches were in memory of his twins who had died 48 years earlier.
That was 33 years ago but the memories flooded back as I greeted his son. I was a little flustered by the resemblance to his dad and didn’t think to ask if the memorial garden is still intact but I pray it is. I’ve seen many elaborate and costly memorials...but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that exuded such peace and serenity.