Written by Great Aunt Elise Rykel – Circa early 1900’s
Dreamily looking out over the beautiful lake which her home faced, Mrs. B. wondered how much longer she would be permitted to enjoy this scene. She had already lived her three score years and ten. Who could tell how soon this living temple, which housed her soul, would cease to function. It would then be given over to the element of heat and reduced to a tiny heap of clean, white ashes. Mrs. B. smiled remembering the objections of her family, to her wish to have it so, but she knew that they would carry out her wishes.
Her thoughts drifted back through the years. She was eight years old. Frightened and trembling she hid behind the door of the room where her little brother lay, quiet and cold, with pennies on his eyelids. Upon emerging from her hiding place, she found that everyone was too disturbed and sad to pay any attention to her.
Her curiosity piqued as she saw a servant put a sheet over the long mirror in the parlor. The marble-top table, in the center of the room, was pushed to one side and the furniture, in general, re-arranged. The next thing she knew, there was a beautiful white casket where the table had stood. Her little brother was lying softly bedded in the white velvet, all dressed up in his Sunday suit.
People came, and among them, the little brother’s kindergarten teacher with the children from his class. One of them placed a lovely bunch of wax flowers in the folded hands of her little brother. She thought they were the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen.
The day came when they put a cover on her little brother’s white bed and over the dainty wax flowers. Nothing seemed to matter from then on. She left with the family and soon found herself staring into a deep hole lined with green boughs. Someone was holding her hand, and the good neighbor, Mr. Graham, held a huge umbrella over her father and mother, for it was a cold, rainy day.
She shuddered, as they lowered the white casket, with its shining silver plaque engraved with the little brother’s name and birthday fastened on the top, into the deep hole. Again, from then on, nothing seemed to matter for a long time.
She heard much talk among her parents about buying a new plot. Nice Sundays were spent riding around to places which her parents called cemeteries. Her father seemed to be especially interested in examining the soil and finally found a place which was very sandy and, as he said, dry.
On a bright day, not a Sunday this time, the horses were hitched to the carriage, and again she found herself beside a deep hole lined with green boughs. There were men there. They lowered some heavy ropes into the hole and brought up a long box. As it came up, dirty black water streamed out of it from all sides. Horror-stricken, she watched them place the box on the ground. There came to view a blackened, water-soaked thing that she knew contained her brother’s lovely white velvet bed. In terror she watched the men shine up the blackened silver plaque and heard one of them say that they would not advise opening the casket.
Oh, the little brother and the wax flowers! Were they black and wet too? Then and there, her mind reached out into the future and she chose for herself a tiny heap of clean white ashes.
On a hot day in mid-summer, Mrs. B. was on a mission of charity in a congested district of her hometown. Every foot of space was built up. It seemed, on this day, there could hardly be breathing space for those living in the district.
She came upon two little boys sitting on a narrow strip of ground between the curb and the sidewalk. The ground was covered with cinders which they were scraping to get at the earth beneath. One of them succeeded in getting a little heap, and the other tried to help himself to some of it. Protectively the hands of the successful one closed around his treasure, and he cried out, “That’s my dirt.”
With a wistful expression on his face, the thwarted one got up. Between trucks, streetcars and other traffic, he dodged across the street. He pressed his face against a high iron fence which enclosed a large park-like area. This area had, at one time, been on the outskirts of town. But the town had grown into a big city which had crept all around this place. Trees, grass, flowers, paths winding in and out, up and down the alluring soft rolling ground, greeted the child’s eyes. Why couldn’t he play there and touch the good mother earth to his heart’s content? But, no, he turned away. This place was not for play. People came there to mourn and weep. It was a cemetery. Long narrow mounds, marble stones of all sizes, occupied the ground where he would have liked to dig and play.
Suddenly, there came upon Mrs. B. the recollection of the little brother, the wax flowers, the white box.
Ah, ye who mourn, remove the high iron fence, the monuments; level those mounds. Dedicate this beautiful spot with its shady lanes, its grass, its flowers, to the living memory of your dear ones. Give over the cast-off garments of flesh to the cleansing element of Light instead of darkness. Let not any child starve for its little heap of dirt to play in…