Sunday afternoon I left Bucksnort and made a pilgrimage.
My paternal great grandfather and great grandmother are buried in Cobb County; my maternal great grandmother and great grandfather in Cherokee County. I'd never seen their graves.
Cobb's Kemp Cemetery is frozen in time, a stark anomaly to its suburb environs. I parked the car. From a distance the family name stood out: Andrew Jackson Reeves, 1849-1921: Martha Mitchell Reeves, 1852-1927.
When they were born, Abraham Lincoln was an Ilinois lawyer. During the Civil War, they were in their teens. They likely saw Atlanta burning.
I ran my fingers over the time-eroded names and mused on the transitory enigma: life.
I drove to Little River Cemetery. I thought of the people who were born, married, raised children, died, and were buried in this circumscribed world delineated by landmarks known as Sweat's Mountain, Rube's Creek, and the Alabama Road.
My grandmother's father, Isaac Wood, and mother, Annie, are buried at Little River. She and Isaac had five children.
My grandmother, Carrie, was the youngest. Isaac died when my grandmother was two. Her mother, Annie, died three years later. The five children were parentless.
Her epitaph in the records of the Woodstock Baptist Church reads:
"The last tribute of respect to the memory of Sister Annie Wood. She was born in 1851 and early in life gave herself to Christ.Annie Wood was 33 years old when she passed away. I can imagine the trepidation she must have felt when her husband died and with five children faced survival on land still bearing the ravages of the Civil War.
"She was the wife of Isaac Wood who died several years ago, leaving her with five small children which she tried to raise up for Christ. She was the daughter of affliction but bore it all with Christian patience. She died June 10, 1884.
May a smiling Providence bless here doubly orphaned children and may it be the chief desire to imitate her many Christian virtues."
What fear and grief must this child--who became my grandmother--have experienced when the person who loved her the most disappeared?
How did this void get interpreted in her life and, ultimately, in the lives of her children?
Fortunately, a widow named Haney took the children under her care.
All of us are children of children past. Our ancestors' lives--their struggles, loss, courage, decisions, and values--become the amalgam of our lives.
Annie Wood, my great grandmother, a widow with five children, gripped me. When she passed away my grandmother, Carrie, was five.
How might this tragedy have touched Carrie's son--my father, also named Andrew Jackson--who shaped my life? What of me--in the chain of time--may be the expressions of that event 117 years ago?
There is some bereavement, I suspect, that by its depth, because of its indelible nature, is passed on. It's elusive, but I believe it can survive in subtle ways.
I don't know the specifics, but I suspect the chain's intact.
A different man returned to Bucksnort.