Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Legacy on a Tombstone

Our family is on vacation this week which included a stop at the cemetery in Portsmouth, Iowa, to see the resting place of my husband's uncle. We had been unable, because of the weather this winter, to attend his funeral and wanted to pay our respects.

As we walked past the tombstones lining the drive, our daughter, Lydia, was delighted to find the names of the children engraved on the tombstones of their parents. She began counting and found that many of them had an average of 9-12 children listed. Granted, it is impossible to know for sure how many died before the age of five, a sorrow carried by many families before the discovery of antibiotics, but the evidence is listed for future generations to see that these families had many children.

Some would argue that they didn't have birth control or didn't use it for religious reasons. Yet, those reasons would not warrant the place of honor on their parent's tombstone. I would have to surmise that the children were such a blessing to their parents they were listed just as you see some stones with engravings of horses, motorcycles, their camper, symbols of their fraternal orders, military honors, and such like. The understanding is that whatever is on your tombstone is what held the most honor and/or interest in your life. Therefore, for a mother to have her children listed on her tombstone is not only an honor to her, but also an act of devotion to her children.

Also, considering that the engravings were most likely made after the death of the mother, even the one which simply said, "Mother of six," was a way for her children to honor and appreciate her for the sacrifices made for them throughout her life.

As I read the engravings I felt a sense of sadness that in only one or two generations, we have lost the ties which bind us even to the grave. It is time to wake up to the fact that we no longer honor mothers or cherish children in our culture, and few families see themselves as a unit, as a team unto death. Yet, it is not too late to train our children that having many children is still a blessing from the Lord and, as the testimonies of these stones can attest, being the mother of many children is still an honor worth sacrificing for.