Last week I was out at Omega Cemetery, a beautiful place in my opinion, but I was disappointed to see that the grass desperately needs cutting. When I go out there, I always remember my Uncle Solomon and Aunt Stell, who gave me my plot. It’s one of the twelve original plots, and Aunt Stell, in particular, was elated to pass it along to me when they moved off to Dublin to live with their daughter Mary Nell.
“I love that plot,” Aunt Stell told me. “It’s close to U.S. #1, and I had always planned to lie there under those tall pines and listen to the traffic go by on the highway. I think it would be a great way to pass the time, but now that we’ve decided to move to Dublin, Sol thinks we ought to be buried up there with Mary Nell. We want you to have this plot. Marzee, your cousin’s wife, is buried there, but she’s family and there’s plenty room for seven more.”
My hands were filled with a crockpot full of chicken and dumplings as I walked into the family reunion that day. Aunt Stell had met me at the door, bubbling on about the cemetery plot, which I assure you is the strangest gift I ever received in my entire life. I welcomed it and thanked her profusely.
“Now don’t tell Sol that I told you because he’s waiting in the back and wants to tell you himself,” she whispered conspiratorially. “He’s back there talking to some folks. You know how he is when he gets off on that family history. He might talk all day. Act surprised when he tells you, and he’ll never know that I beat him to you. I’ve been watching the front door ever since we got here so I’d see you first.”
Laughing at her trick, she led me to the long tables covered with family reunion foods—probably the best dishes in the south. We found a place for my hot crock pot, carefully placed it among the other dishes, and went back to the car for more. I’d baked Daddy’s favorite sour cream pound cake, and of course I had those traditional mustard greens. Bringing greens to a reunion is a labor of love because they are so much trouble to wash and prepare. The cooking itself is a snap once the cleaning is done. However, Daddy thought I should bring them, and I thought Daddy hung the moon in the sky, so I did. As I finished unloading the car, I closed the trunk and went back inside. Tiny, frail Aunt Stell insisted on helping me, so I handed her the pound cake safe in its plastic cake plate. We placed all the food in the right places, greeted people as we met them, and smiled at others across the room.
“Come on, honey,” my excited aunt urged. “Sol is waiting for you.”
We threaded our way through crowds of people, speaking and smiling, but allowing no one to stop us on our appointed mission. Finally, we reached Uncle Solomon, my daddy’s oldest brother, holding court in the back corner amid several older relatives who loved to hear his tales of our ancestors. He was famous for his amazing memory, despite his advanced age, and he loved genealogy. My daddy, on the other hand, did not. He very carefully avoided Uncle Sol’s gatherings as long as he could.
When Uncle Sol saw us approaching, he stood up and came to meet me.
“Y’all wait right here,” he said to his audience. “I need to talk to Mary Ann privately for a minute. You know she’s got another red head. You know my hair was bright red until it turned gray. Did that red-headed boy of yours come, Mary Ann?”
I assured him that Josh was indeed around there somewhere. I’d had no idea that Uncle Sol had red hair since he’d had gray or white hair as long as I had known him. He directed me and Aunt Stell to a secluded spot and repeated her previous information to me.
“I hope you don’t need it for a long, long time,” he said, “but it’s something that every family needs eventually. You meet me down at Alex Johnson’s office next Tuesday at 4, and we’ll fix up the papers.”
Prophetic words, to be sure.