I had to go home to Ohio this past week to see my father who is dying from Stage 4 cancer – that is a post for another day. We stayed in Zanesville near my daughter’s house so when my father was resting, we could spend time with our daughter and granddaughter who we hadn’t seen in 3 years due to COVID. In preparing to go back to Ohio, I knew I wanted to stop by the cemetery in Zanesville where three sets of my great grandparents are buried. My granddaughter, Mia, who just turned five, was so excited to go to the cemetery. She calls me sometimes when I’m in the cemetery here in New York and she has said “I want to go with you to the cemetery!” I always have to tell her “someday!” So when I told her I’d be coming to Ohio and asked if she wanted to go with me to the cemetery, she was extremely excited. Her reply “Can I sprinkle flowers on the graves?” Yes, my grandchild is just like me.
So the morning of we went out to breakfast and even throughout, she was excited to go to the flower store to pick out some flowers. We headed there and she walked right up to the clerk and said “We need flowers. FOR A GRAVE!” The clerk was a tad shocked, I think, that such a little child was that excited about going graveside but Mia picked out three roses in white, yellow, and pink. The clerk wrapped them up and handed them to her. She was so proud to carry them.
We arrived at the Greenwood Cemetery and since it had been three years since I’d been there last, I couldn’t find the stones; of course, I didn’t write the section or row down AND the cemetery office was closed. I knew they were back of the cemetery toward the highway but even so, it’s a very large cemetery. We walked around, and I had Find a Grave pulled up so we could at least SEE the stones and look for ones that looked familiar. We walked and walked but nothing. As we walked, I asked Mia if the cemetery was scary. She said “Nope! I like it.” As we walked and looked, she kept saying she hoped we could find them but I didn’t want to keep dragging them around the cemetery for naught. I told Mia “Since I can’t find our grandparents, let’s just find three lonely stones and give them the flowers.” She was okay with that and chose three stones, giving each a flower. We told her how nice that was to do for someone you didn’t even know.
We headed back to the cars, and I felt a bit defeated. I really wanted to visit them again. When I initially had been to the cemetery years ago, I was very upset at seeing my second great grandfather William’s stone. He was the one that murdered his wife before killing himself, leaving their two boys to be forced into the children’s home system and later, both of them dying by suicide as adults. I’ll admit… I had some really hard feelings about standing there. I mean, logically I knew if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here but at the same time, I was still harboring some anger at how different their children’s lives could have been if they had been raised by parents and not the children’s home. But about a year ago or so, I found another article about how my great grandmother, Esther, had started a fight with him, slapped him, and then HE ended up in court because of it. Coupled with reports that they both had volatile tempers, I began to see it wasn’t all his fault. Yes, he chose the absolute wrong thing to do but I don’t see him as the sole instigator of their downward spiral. Some blame had to rest with Esther, too. I guess I wanted to go back to see William’s stone and see how I felt now with that new information. Maybe it was an attempt to apologize to him for being angry at him for so long. //shrug//
At the cars, we stood talking and it just kept bugging me that I knew we were close! They were *right* there… somewhere. I asked my husband to go look in front of us in this one section. He meandered that way and we soon followed. The stones I had pointed out were not theirs and we stood there talking some more. Mia sweetly said, “I’m sorry we can’t find your grandparents, Mimi.” As we’re standing there chatting, I happened to look up, and right in front of us, I mean, DIRECTLY in front of us, was their stone. I saw Steward on the bottom and just felt instant glee. We walked over to the stone and Mia wanted to go back to get the flowers to put on their grave. Her parents went to grab the flowers while she and I stayed with the stones. I told her this was her grandparents too and they had died over 100 years ago. I said they were her “great great great great great great grandparents” and showed her 6 fingers, her eyes grew big as dinner plates! Everything is dramatic at five years old it seems. She hugged the stone, walking around it until she spotted a spider and then she wouldn’t get near it! Her parents brought back the roses and she tossed two at Minerva and John‘s stone and hurled one at William‘s. Any sense of decorum went out the window with the appearance of the spider.
I made my daughter and Mia take a picture with me and their stone. Mia wouldn’t even stand next to her mom because that spider was over there! Hence the face she is making but I promise you she had a good time. In any event, despite her sour face, three generations of Stewart girls with their great-grandparent’s stone is an amazing photo to have. Plus it marks Mia’s first time in a cemetery and I’m thrilled I was able to go with her and show her that they’re not scary places to be feared. I have always felt as children, our experiences in cemeteries are usually awful. We’re normally there at the death of a grandparent or other relative when people are crying and sad. People get put in the ground and you never see them again. That experience can be frightening and distressing as a child and it sticks with you for a very long time. So being able to take Mia outside of a funeral setting and show her that the cemetery wasn’t a scary, spooky place at all was a wonderful thing. She thought it was pretty and loved the stones. We pointed out certain ones to her that had different motifs on them, we pointed out a soldier’s stone and smalls ones for children. She was very accepting and I think it was a very positive experience for her all around.