The Downside of Love
March 3, 2022
Valentine’s Day is over for another year. For that day, it seems as if everyone is madly in love, with partners, children, and even pets! Special meals are prepared, cards given and received, and candy abounds. How wonderful to love and be loved is undoubtedly the theme of the day.
Lord Alfred Tennyson was the person who originally wrote, " Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved." I have always questioned that sentiment. We all know those people who love meagerly, shallowly, and mildly. There will never be any extreme highs or lows in life for them. Part of me envies them. It is wonderful to have never felt the overwhelming grief of losing someone you love deeply.
The first spring I spent in Big Sandy, I found myself attracted to the cemetery. Some will think that strange, but I have always found cemeteries very interesting. They tell some of the histories of the community, and inscriptions on stones can give an insight into those buried and those surviving them. In my experience, each cemetery has a different" feel" to it. Some are heavy with atmosphere and others not. Some are in peaceful spots, and the noise of the living surrounds others. Some are well kept, and others aren’t. All are fascinating.
I found myself drawn to the older part of the cemetery. The battered crosses and chipped stones beckoned to me. I began reading inscriptions, and that was my undoing—so many children buried in the early nineteen hundreds. One can speculate it was probably due to the influenza epidemic spreading across the country, but of course, it could be many other reasons. Whatever the cause, the result was the terrible grief of a parent losing a child. My heart broke for the parents standing long ago on the spot I was now standing. A bleak prairie scene without the trees we currently have. Maybe extra grief to need to leave your loved one in so barren a place? I moved from grave to grave and said a little prayer at each. Somehow, I hoped the child and parents would know that someone still thought of them and grieved them in a fashion.
Memorial Day arrived, and I saw the placing of flowers on the graves of those Big Sandy has lost. We don’t have this tradition in Canada, so it was a first for me. I headed over to my little area of older graves, and there were no flowers on the children’s graves. I understand. Parents die themselves, and families move far away. Whatever the reason, I felt sad that these little ones were not being remembered. Since then, I have waited for our lilac bushes to bloom their fragrant flowers. I cut and gather up purple armfuls. Ken and I drive over to " my part" of the cemetery, placing lilacs on each child’s grave. I stand and say a heartfelt prayer at each. All stones are heartbreaking, but two have devastated me the most.
One stone is at Nellie’s grave. The stone reads, " OUR DARLING NELLIE," born February 17, 1914---died July 27, 1914. Nellie was five months old!! What happened to you, I question, and did you have siblings? Did your parents live here a long time, or short? Are your living relatives even aware of where you are buried? I guess none of that matters. I know Nellie is not there, but somehow, irrationally, I hope she knows that someone is thinking about her. I hope Nellie’s parents somehow know I am thinking of them also. I think of the missed birthdays, Christmas celebrations, and all the love you share with a child as they grow.
The other grave that particularly impacted me is the one that says," VERA CAMPBELL AND BABY SON. DIED NOVEMBER 1918. Such grief there must have been at that spot in that long-ago November. I can’t dwell too long, or I feel a sweeping depression and sense of devastating loss. My imagination? Maybe. To lose a mother and her child!!! I wonder if the father was left with other children to raise alone. Could mother and child have been saved now with our advanced medical abilities? Did she die during labor( a horrendous thought) or after? I know. It doesn’t matter, does it? But the mind questions whether it matters or not. I pray for poor Vera and her son and think of Vera happily anticipating her child, not knowing what lay ahead. Having had five births myself, it’s not a stretch to put myself in Vera’s shoes. I feel so blessed to have survived those labors and had the good fortune to raise five healthy children.
Valentine’s Day is always bitter /sweet for me. I think of those grieving for loved ones when such a day can make it worse for them. I think of those I have lost. I can no longer send cards and flowers I can no longer give. Most of us love deeply and push the toll love can take to the back of our minds. Loving means we pay the price. On reflection, do you agree with Lord Tennyson? Do you believe it is better to have loved, even if you lose?
Despite all my sadder thoughts, I embrace Valentine’s Day! I send cards and treats to children and grandchildren. I expect a card and flowers, or maybe candy? Candy is always welcome! Ken gets a handmade card, and a special meal is prepared together. Life goes on, and you celebrate it! You embrace the blessings of the present and continue with hope.