“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789. A few people may believe that they’re exceptions on the tax part of that statement. But the part about death … no one’s proven him wrong about that yet. Death is the one common denominator that none of us can escape and it’s touched all of our lives, some more than others.
Those that share the resting place of Medlin Cemetery in Trophy Club, Texas can attest to that. But the roads that led them all to the same resting place are so very, very different, as I discovered on Christmas Day 2008 during a mid-day cemetery hop.
The road to Medlin Cemetery began over 150 years ago. Charles Medlin and twenty other families came toDenton Countyand formed Medlin Settlement, later called GardenValley, on Denton Creek. When floods broke up Medlin Settlement, they moved to higher ground and formed a new neighborhood that would grow into the town of Roanoke. Charles’s daughter, Mittie Ann loved the beauty of the small hill where Medlin Cemetery lies. She said she would like to be buried here. Mittie Ann Harris died in childbirth on April 5, 1850, at the age of 21. Charles buried his daughter on the hill she admired overlooking the rolling hills of North Texas and thus began Medlin Cemetery.
As illness, tragic accidents, and old age visited the settlement, more people joined Mittie Ann at the top of the hill. We know the stories of some of the people, most of the people we don’t know about. Some are memorialized for a period of time with markers indicating names, dates of birth, and dates of death. Families of more means embellished the markers with more details, such as familial relationships, or phrases such as beloved. Scriptures or poems were often added to markers, much as we practice today. Pictorial images of doves, lambs, hearts, crosses and bibles were also common. Some graves were marked with less permanent memorials of wood or softer stone. Time and the elements has taken their toll and erased the names and dates and we no longer know whose body lies there. Sometimes only a stone was placed and all we know is that someone was buried there. Were they male or female? Were they young or old? Nothing is known to us. Multitudes of graves across the world have lost even these markers and all evidence of their existence has long ago evaporated.
While walking around Medlin Cemetery, paying my respects and honoring the lives of those here before us, one grave marker in the corner caught my eye and my heart. Charlie Earle Smith (September 10, 1888- August 23, 1890), a little boy just less than two years old. He lays here all by himself, at the edge of the graves, no other visible family members around him, no one buried past him. Why did he die so young? So many possibilities exist. It was possibly an illness such as influenza or pneumonia, possibly something genetic that couldn’t be found at that period of time, or possibly an accident such as snakebite or drowning. Why isn’t more family buried around him? Did he have any brothers or sisters? Did his parents (A.M and M.H.) leave the area after his death? So many questions, and all unknown, except for his name. Lisa, who was cemetery visiting with me that day, found some flowers that had blown away from where they were originally placed. They were lying all alone and she was unable to determine where they belonged. She placed them on Charlie’s grave, a tribute to a life that once lived in Medlin Settlement, albeit a very short life.
I’m drawn to the older portions of a cemetery. There’s something about the passing of time, the hundred or so years that have passed …. And all that remains are these monuments. The people that shared the memories of these lives lived have since passed, taking their memories with them. There may be old photographs of them remaining, but if there are any around, chances are they’re sitting in an antique store, probably not even with a name on it.
Though my heart is drawn to the older sections of a cemetery, I still walk through the newer parts. At one corner of Medlin I was drawn to two graves, close to one another. One was marked with a magnificent stately rock; a huge stone with the plaque attached to the center of it. The gentleman had passed, leaving a poem immortalizing his love for his wife. Being a poet and having his given name and pen name on the plaque, we thought we could find something about him on the internet. Amazingly, Lisa discovered him and he had quite a history as a writer and poet, including work on 80 episodes of Ghostbusters in 1975 and 1986, as writer, creator and associate producer. Being ghosthunters ourselves, of a more novice standing, it was quite fitting to discover him there.
About 20 feet away from the poet/writers grave was a marker with a beautiful rainbow on both sides that had caught my eye as I approached the corner. The marker piqued my interest and I took several photographs of it. The girl laying here was a young girl of 25 years. After losing a brother at age 35 and a step son at age 24, I feel sadness when I see others that have passed so young also, before they really had a chance to live their lives fully. Since this young girl had passed in 1989, I was curious to see if there was something on the internet about her. I thought there may be some obscure article about a high school sports team or something relatively insignificant.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she was killed by a serial killer inKansas. A book had been written about her death and the death of two other girls, whose bodies were never found. I was puzzled about how she ended up in a small Texas cemetery if she lived inKansas at the time of her death. I thought maybe her parents lived here in Texas. Reading about it in the book revealed that her parents lived about twenty minutes from her in Kansas. Further reading indicated that the man accused of the murders was apprehended at DFW Airport. Why did he come here to fly away? There are plenty of accessible airports between here and Kansas, why here? And how and why did she end up here in the same locality, although she was originally buried in Kansas, where she lived and died? It was very puzzling to say the least. A little more research showed that her father died here in Keller 24 years later and he is buried at the same cemetery. I believe he’s buried next to her, although there isn’t a current marker there with his name. I am puzzled by all of this, and intrigued by her life, although 20 years have passed since her last breath. Sometimes the memories we leave on earth remains in ways most unexpected, like a trail of cryptic crumbs for those in the future to find and ponder about.