By Connie Denney
A family cemetery atop a hill in Western North Carolina was the setting for a group alive with a purpose.
Months earlier I had learned of the hope for a stone to mark the grave of my paternal great-grandmother, whose name I could not have told you at that time. But her now 95-year-old granddaughter’s (my late father’s first cousin) determination to see a proper marker for her grandmother’s final resting place inspired others to help make that happen.
Her niece Sherry and I saw each other at a funeral home, all too frequent a place folks run into each other these days. She told me of her Aunt Mamie’s wish. I won’t try to name all involved, as there are a number of characters in this story, which is still unfolding. Sherry and I were in touch over the months, as she needed a death date for the stone, which she was seeing to getting engraved before taking it across the mountain. My inquiries on my branch of the family tree helped none in that regard. She did learn the date, however; and, the trip to Bee Log was on.
Those accompanying Aunt (her relationship to a number of those along) Mamie on a Tuesday in July numbered a dozen or more. I was so pleased to be among them, as somewhere along the line it struck me that this was MY great-grandmother we were talking about! These were MY people. A number of them I knew but had not seen for a long time. Some I did not remember having seen. Some I had never met.
Among the latter was Steve, recognized as “historian” by others in the group. He was the one with a shovel and materials needed to set the gravestone. The fact that it rained did not keep him from doing what he came to do. As a matter of fact, it did not seem to dampen spirits at all. Mission accomplished, we caravanned into Burnsville for lunch and to extend our visit. Connections among the living had much to do with appreciating a common heritage.
Since then Steve and I have shared information, including old photographs he sent from his Mom’s collection. One is of my Daddy and his twin brother. It’s a picture I had not seen and now can share with other family members on my branch of the family tree. A bit of research connects dots, which creates more questions, which leads to the need for more research.
Between that chance meeting with Sherry and the day Aunt Mamie, surrounded by family members, saw her wish fulfilled, I had two occasions to be at that cemetery. The first was to explore a bit, be sure of just where it was. It was not exactly where we thought it was, but at the end of an unpaved former logging road. That’s a story in itself.
Before the second trip, I had been back where I have cell phone reception and internet access. I learned more than I even knew to ask. My great-great-great-great grandfather has a commemorative stone on top of that hill acknowledging his service in the American Revolutionary War. That, too, is quite another story.