Maggie Wilder West
This past weekend was the unofficial ending of Summer. Many people went on one last mini-vacation to wish Summer a fund farewell until next year. Saturday with a vacation nowhere in sight we decided to go out in the sunshine and do something summery. We rode to a nearby town and went to a horse auction, went to the cemetery there, went out to eat, and finally went to a movie. The next day was followed by church and then a cook out at a local park. Now, this does sound like a strange combination I know and not really a vacation, but at least I got away from the house for two whole days in a row.
At the horse sale I watched first of all goats, then horses and donkeys, and finally cows ran into a very small pen where they were pushed and pulled and kicked to where they were supposed to be. When they accomplished that, they then were pushed and pulled and kicked out of the pen only a few minutes later. I think I felt most sorry for the goats. I suppose because they were the smallest of all and the easiest to be pushed, pulled, and kicked around. Most of the goats sold for around forty bucks. I hoped that they would end up where someone showed them a little kindness.
We left the sale, forgot about the goats, and went to the cemetery in Pontotoc where my mother and grandchild are buried. I picked some wild flowers to take to the graves. My husband and I first walked to my mother's, then across the way to our grandbaby's. Time continues to pass by, but memories remain. The visits there seem to keep memories alive.
We decided to walk over to the older part of the cemetery and once again look for my grandmother's grave. Mother always told me she had been buried under a big oak tree, but we never did find the grave. There are so many graves with stones broken with the inscriptions worn away. The graves in the old part are from the 1800s. I looked under all the oak trees and never found anything that looked like the grave of Maggie Wilder West who died when I was a year old in 1959. Even though I never really knew her, her memory was kept alive by stories my mother told.
Under one of those trees, I did find a grave that I haven't forgotten. On a small broken tombstone were these words "Amelia Meer 1873-1943 Teacher for 40 years, Gone but Not Forgotten." As I read those words, I tried to imagine Amelia, what she might have looked like, and who might have had those words inscribed on the stone so long ago. Whoever did that, may have never forgotten her, but if they are still living, they obviously had not been to this place in quite awhile.
I continued to think about goats and graves as we drove back to town. As I ate and tried to watch the movie, I thought about days, people, and even pets forgotten from long ago.
For the second day of this 'closer than you think vacation' - on Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to a park and cookout and eat at a picnic table by a lake. The weather was nice and it was relaxing to sit and watch people. In the middle of all the people was a black lab dog. He walked with his head down and his tail between his legs. He looked sad and confused, much like the animals I had seen the day before at the auction. One family had children with them. The little girls wanted to go play with the dog and feed him. The parents responded by yelling at the children and the dog. We tried to talk to him, but for some reason, mostly fear I think, he wouldn't come near. He kept his distance from everyone and just observed.
When we got ready to leave my husband went over and offered him some leftovers. He came over hesitantly and ate but never let us touch him. As we drove away I wondered what had happened to him. Had he been separated from his owners; had they gone off and forgotten him purposely?
So on the last unofficial holiday weekend of this summer, I
thought a lot about forgetfulness. I observed some human cruelty that I would love to forget. I thought of people's oversight of remembering to show respect for past generations. I saw humans forgetting to show kindness to forgotten animals.
Today I ask myself what does God want me to learn from all this. I suppose I could just forget the animals who were pushed around, the graves that were broken down and the dog who was lost and not found. But I think God was trying to show me something that He didn't want me to forget and that He wanted me to share with others.
As we labor day to day and live our lives, as we take vacations from our labor to relax, we should never forget those who have gone before us and labored and toiled to make our world a better place. Those who were teachers like Amelia, those who were mothers and fathers working to make the next generation's lives better than their's; those who were simply one such as Maggie Wilder West resting somewhere under a shady oak tree.
Yes, there have always been and always will be those who are punchers and kickers and pushers and abusers in the mix, but we should remember God loves them just as much as He loves Amelias and Maggies whose earthly remains now lie at rest under shady oak trees with broken tombstones. We too should remember to remember those among us with their heads down and their tails between their legs who feel unwanted, unloved, and forgotten. They are hungry. As we labor in this world, may we remember we are called to not just feed ourselves, but the forgotten as well.
Even though none of us may be remembered by anyone here in a couple of hundred years, if Jesus should tarry that long, we will be remembered in Heaven if we are laborers together with Christ while we are here. Let's feed some sheep, love even goats, and be kind to lost dogs who may cross our path.