My dad was a bit obsessed with death. Perhaps this was because he'd had a rather close call in his 40s --a tumor on his pituitary gland. It was benign, but I believe it affected his outlook on life long after. Whenever we were out in the farmlands around Clear Lake, where he and my mom had a summer cottage, Dad couldn't resist stopping at a cemetery. We'd wander through the gravestones, some of which were quite old, and note the dates and names. To me, it was kind of a history lesson. When I was in college, there was a large cemetery near the campus of Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH. My friends and I sometimes walked through it, fascinated by the occasional tombstone that had a brass "locket" containing a photo of the deceased.
Today, I was driving back from an errand and took a shortcut to the expressway on Big A road, which runs behind some commercial developments. I'd always wondered where the name originated. A quick Google search revealed there used to be a school along that road. One Halloween, the students painted a big A on the side of the building and the name stuck. Opposite the back end of the PetSmart store, there is an entrance to "Big A Cemetery." The land originally belonged to the Kirby family, one of a group of Kentucky settlers, and in 1857, William Kirby was buried in a meadow there. Most all of the earliest graves in the cemetery represented family members of the area's earliest pioneer families and their descendants.
I couldn't resist turning in on the narrow gravel road to have a look. Some of the gravestones were fairly recent, with dates in the 2000s. A few graves had been enclosed by bricks or a little fence and many had fading plastic flowers. Some were decorated with stuffed animals, most likely marking the resting place of a child. The road looped around to the left and I continued to the back of the cemetery. At the very end, I spotted an unusual grave marked with a cement "log". I parked and got out to investigate. Unfortunately, the information of the plaque had weathered to the point it was not legible. I explored a little further and found gravestones placed there in the 1800s, when the area was being settled. One heartbreakingly just said "Infant" and I suspected the tiny tombstones without inscription were for babies. There were some obelisks and fancier gravestones, but most were quite modest.
So there it is. I continued my dad's curiosity about cemeteries and got an unexpected history lesson. It left me wondering about those early settlers who bravely came West to North Texas and how they lived and died. Death comes to all of us, but its what we do with the days and years we are given that counts.
P.S. To end this post on a more humorous note, I found that there is a gravestone in the Key West Cemetery in Florida that simply states, "I Told You I Was Sick."
Nothing says spring like a visit to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Hannah and Reagan generously treated the entire family to a special Easter brunch there. We dined on the covered patio with a view of White Rock Lake, enjoying perfect sunny weather. First came a sumptuous buffet with tossed salad, charcuterie and cold marinated veggies, as well as traditional breakfast items like cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes. Then came green beans, salmon, chicken Marsala and a carving board with sirloin beef. The kids had a great time sampling new foods and old favorites. The best was yet to come--a groaning outdoor table with chocolate cake, carrot cake, coconut pie, chocolate chip muffins, banana bread and petit fours. The grownups enjoyed endless cups of delicious coffee. We were all stuffed but lingered and talked.
Just as much fun was watching all the kids in their Easter finery. Little girls in pastel frocks or navy sailor dresses scampered around the lawn. I spotted three small boys in matching powder blue quarter-zip sweaters. Our grandsons (and Reagan) were decked out in colorful Psycho Bunny polo shirts and Lena in a bright blue romper.
Next came a tour of the gardens. Huge beds of pansies and violas created splashes of bright color. Many types of blooming trees lined the paths. Gigantic peacocks created from plant materials serenely surveyed the lawns, while water features made pleasant background music. The tulips were about finished, with just a few brave ones surviving, but the azaleas were still colorful--I especially like the candy-striped ones. Winding paths took you around the garden to the areas with the best lake views. We saw families picnicking on the hill, while their kids chased around. Because I have been getting around with a cane due to a painful hip, Hannah rented a wheelchair for the occasion. The kids took turns pushing it. Noah rode on my lap at times--because he had tired from doing cartwheels across the lawn. Booker amused himself by teasing me until I threatened him with the cane. Last stop was the gift shop where Alison treated each of the kids to a souvenir.
The Arboretum is a real treasure here in Dallas. No matter what time of year you visit, there are different things to see. They are famous for their annual Pumpkin House and Twelve Days of Christmas displays. The 66-acre gardens were created by joining two estates that front White Rock Lake. The houses on those estates are still very much in use for special events. Spring and early summer bring a concert series on a hillside overlooking the lake. There is also a children's adventure garden with many interactive features. When my friend Claudia visited for Thanksgiving last year, Hannah took us to a Christmas tea which was delicious and lots of fun. Afterward, we toured the historic DeGolyer House with its huge display of Christmas creches and magnificently decorated trees.
All in all, it was a glorious day to spend with our family. Thanks to Hannah and Reagan for their generosity in making such a happy Easter memory for us.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.