Cover Photo: “Saving Private Ryan” – Dreamworks/Paramount/Amblin/Mutual Pictures
“Sister Suzie, brother John
Martin Luther, Phil and Don
Brother Michael, auntie Gin.
Open the door and let ’em in…” (1976) “Let ‘Em In” – Recorded by: Wings. Composer: Paul McCartney
Only God knows what dangers they faced, or what turmoil and unbearable strife they endured. Nonetheless, they made their mark.
Back in the 1970’s, on a lonely hill, on what we knew were the outskirts of our Dallas suburb, where there were still pastures in the area, was a new church building where I was active in my youth group as a teenager. Just on the other side of the west-side driveway, which leads from the main road to the parking lot in the back of the building, was our makeshift baseball diamond. I don’t even think we had a backstop fence behind home-plate. It was more of a sandlot style field to play ball, and practice for the local softball church league. We spent some hot summer days out there, as we wiped our sweaty faces with the leather of our baseball gloves. Just west of home-plate, maybe twenty yards or so, was the edge of a wooded area. Actually, it was more like a dark thicket, dense in brush, Mesquite trees, along with assorted older kinds of trees. The unkempt tangled mass was so thick, nobody dared walk through it without a machete. Therefore, none of us paid any attention to the small wooded clump of pastureland. In fact, if an overthrown ball made it into the thicket, you couldn’t retrieve it without getting scratched by all the branches, briers, and twigs. Little did we know at that time the historical significance submerged beneath.
However, communities grow, realtors have their blueprints for a bustling expanse of a commonwealth. Planning and zoning took their grip as contractors began to clear pastureland for new streets, neighborhoods, and shopping centers.
And so it was, the northern sector of our suburb developed with NASCAR speed in the 1980’s. I lived here during this wave of development and still held my mouth open in awe of all the changes.
One of those changes was my former church selling a sector of their land just west of the building, where our baseball diamond was. It wasn’t long afterward, the bulldozers began to roll, making way for a new subdivision of upscale homes. As they did, they proceeded to clear the wooded area next to our old sandlot. All the machinery came to a halt when a foreman yelled out, “Hey, wait! Hold up there!” As it turned out, there in the midst of all the overgrown thicket, a small cemetery, long forgotten by generations past.
When first discovered, rumors flew around the community. One such rumor was an old graveyard of black slaves with unmarked graves had been discovered. My heart sank just thinking about it. Although it turned out not to be the case, it was the only story I heard about the forgotten patch of a cemetery. It’s what I handed down to my kids, as well. Not once did I visit the place throughout the years. Don’t ask me why. If you did, I guess I would tell you it was because it’s not a very convenient spot to get to. And that is still true today. Nevertheless, I put an end to my procrastination a couple of weeks ago. The historical cemetery sits less than a mile from my street.
It took several years, and some civic struggle, but after the research was done, and the zoning commission had their hearings concerning the old cemetery, it was agreed to preserve the plot. So, in a way, they did just that. They built the new neighborhood around it. Literally, between two of the new homes built at the edge of the new subdivision. There is a marker out by the curb of a very busy street. However, if you blink, while doing 45 MPH, you would never know it’s there. And yet, it is. Nestled between a couple of fabulous homes, on a street of the same, lies a small patch of ground about the size of a small frame house, about the length and width of the average front yard of homes from the 1930’s-1940’s. You might be able to park four or five large SUV’s on the strip of land.
To sum it up, in 1858, a pioneer in a covered wagon, brought his wife and four children across the Midwest reaching the plains, from Illinois to the prairies north of Dallas, Texas. His name was Snyder Kennedy. He was one of the first founders of our town, close to, what was then called, the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, approximately three miles west of my house. On this small spot of land, where his family cemetery is now preserved, over thirty people are possibly buried there, including several infants. (I say, “possibly” because there are over thirty names listed, but it has been said, only twenty-three are confirmed in the plot.) There are no longer any individual markers due to the work of vandals during the 1950’s. There are no outlines designating grave plots, or any other markings highlighting where a final resting place can be located. It left me in a saddened state.
Snyder Kennedy’s headstone was later moved to a local community cemetery a couple of miles away, but no graves were exhumed or transferred. The first person buried there is his wife. In 1859, she was laid to rest under an oak, only one year after they arrived to homestead.
A large stone marker chronicles at least thirty names, with birth/death years. One of the family members who rests there is the grandson of a man who helped to finance a great deal of the United States Revolutionary War. At the bottom of the list of family members spanning over five decades, a lone sentence reads, “And others only known to God.”
There is so much story missing here. I wish I knew more about this family, their lives, loves, and adventures. I’m sure a novel could’ve been written of the life and times of these Texas pioneers. But, isn’t this the nature of abandonment?
So, what’s my point?
It’s disturbing to me in knowing this hallowed ground was literally just a baseball’s toss away from me as a teenager, and I wasn’t aware. Moreover, it’s disturbing to me how I drove by this place of honor a thousand times through the decades, never making the attempt to educate myself, and my three daughters, about this courageous Texas homesteading family. Lost ones, forgotten by the community they helped to launch before the Civil War.
It’s disturbing to me knowing the simple truth that generations of my fellow citizens didn’t care enough to keep this ground of grief as a special historic place of honor. For whatever reason, Carrollton’s apathy directed inaction which fertilized the thicket encasing these 30+ interned so long ago.
Likewise, It’s disturbing to me when it’s reported that refrigerated 18-wheelers sit outside many American hospitals storing COVID-19 victims in body bags.
It’s disturbing to me when I hear of our WWII vets falling to COVID-19 while in nursing homes, due to poor management, poor care, or simply unattended. The gravity of the fact that many Coronavirus patients were sent to nursing home communities, infecting others who were sitting ducks, is a hefty weight to digest.
It’s disturbing to me when reports hit the news of funeral homes stacking the bodies of virus victims against storage room walls, due to poorly directed funeral companies.
This is not a political posting, railing against certain politicians, or public health admins, or even a particular nation. I fear we daily count the departed, and toss them aside as a number for the tote board. However, if a famous person falls prey to COVID-19, we acknowledge and mourn that person in every news outlet from here to there. But what about the mom, the dad, those grandparents, that co-worker, and a few 98 year old war heroes? They had sweet memories, loving families, hopes, and dreams. NEVER should one of these be “stacked” on top of another in a body bag.
Unfortunately, I feel the overcooked politicization of COVID-19 has become the dark thicket overshadowing the lives cut short during this pandemic. Beyond that, this Memorial Day in the United States will be less than what it should be due to the restrictions laying upon us.
Yes, it’s disturbing. What may be even more disturbing, is none of this may be disturbing to many in our society.
God help us if memorializing the lost ones becomes blase while in the jaws of this crisis. A memorial will be needed. As on September 11th, names should be recited. Never should it be said, “And others only known to God”. We are created in His image. Humanity deserves more than this.
Is it not true, looking for that silver lining sometimes takes a telescope?
Remembering our lost ones is a dignity taught in fuel for the race.
“Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!’” – John 11:32-36 (NAS)