Out in the lonely ghost town of Mercur, Utah, in a canyon on the western slope of the Oquirrh Mountains is a small graveyard. Most of the graves are marked with large slabs of stone from the area, by now the names worn off so that you don’t really know who is buried where.
One exception is the grave of Annie Calderwood Murchie Jones, the older sister of my grandmother. Annie was born July 25, 1897, and died only six months later on January 10, 1898. Her mother, my great-grandmother Mary Murchie Jones, reported that Annie had spoken to her before her death, telling her that she would not be on this earth very long, and indeed she wasn’t.
For many years my grandmother’s two sisters traveled to Mercur every Memorial Day to care for the grave. It has a little fence around it, and it is clearly marked. After these two great-aunts became too old to maintain the grave, my cousin began taking her children there each Memorial Day for the same reason.
A few years back, this same cousin, in her late forties, gave birth to a baby girl named Abigail, who had a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18. Abby lived just a few days, and at her funeral, I thought again of Annie. Annie’s family had her for a little while longer than my cousin had Abby, but the grief was the same, I would imagine. For several months during my cousin’s pregnancy, my sister and I took meals to their family on Sundays, and we became connected more deeply to the upcoming birth and the subsequent loss. Abby’s brief time here had changed us and turned us from the routine, and we were better for it.
Monday all over the United States, people will be placing flowers on the graves of their dead. We will remember the veterans who died of old age just as we remember the young men killed as they fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll be reminded of the costs of war as well as the fragility of our existence.
I expect to take my children to Mercur on Monday. We’ll pull weeds and maybe paint the fence around the grave. And we’ll remember Annie. And we’ll remember Abby.