29 August 2011

Beneath the willow tree (a surprise)

Yesterday, while my husband was stuck on duty, I spent a very pleasant (if uncomfortably hot) Sunday morning walking through a corner of our local city cemetery.

I had come for two Find-A-Grave photo requests, John R. Smith (1837-1910) and C. H. Davis (1820-1874). I located John R. Smith after just a few minutes of walking, a towering gravestone now tilted slightly to one side, surrounded by his family in a plot full of other Smiths.

Along the way, and afterward as I walked through the rest of the section looking for C. H. Davis, I took the opportunity to admire and photograph other interesting gravestones. I was thrilled to stumble across one engraved with a willow tree, a rare choice of gravestone imagery here in central Texas where real willow trees are such a rarity.

The inscription on the stone was badly weathered and discolored here and there with stains and mold, so I could barely read it; rather than stand there in the heat, I decided to rely on my husband's fancy high-resolution camera to let me puzzle it out in air-conditioned comfort later.

Eventually, when I realized I was just wandering around in circles, I decided I would have to come back for C. H. Davis's photo request another day and get an earlier start; I was disappointed that I hadn't found his gravestone, but pleased with what I had found and the photos I had taken.

That evening, while I organized the photos from my morning expedition, I came across my willow tree. With the image on my computer screen, I noticed something I hadn't seen in the glare of the sun back in the cemetery- the name on the gravestone, faded and worn and discolored, looked a lot like "Davis", and the first letter was definitely "C". The dates were clearly legible, so I compared them with the dates for C. H. Davis on Find-A-Grave, and sure enough, I had found my second photo request without even realizing it.

Mr. Davis has a beautiful epitaph, evidently written by his wife.

"Amiable and loved husband, farewell. Thy years were few, but thy virtues many. They are recorded not on this perishing stone, but in the book of life and in the hearts of thy (word is unreadable) friends."

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