Sequestered on a mountain knoll
among fellows stony cold,
undisturbed by curious stroll
noting epitaphs carved in bold.
Fancy characters now record
a soul’s passing from earthly state
to await their heavenly reward,
while others portend a dimmer fate.
Death ushered several here,
the ripe in age and those too small.
Now suspended time holds near
as bodies fade within their pall.
Like soldiers at attention stand
these memorials of centuries spent,
while I surveyed each tablet grand
one interrupted with humble lament.
Thin and odd in shape it posed
hand hewn from mountain’s lair.
Modest letters formed in rows
scratched deep with loving care.
Elijah Ested, born in 1783;
worked his land ‘til 78.
A long life you must agree
for a simple man of low estate.
Yet looking closer I can view
honor for a father lost
in each chiseled stroke so true
Sore fingers gladly bore the cost.
What legacy will we leave behind?
Only friend and family can attest,
where virtue and diligence intertwine,
until at last we take our rest.
Note: I happened upon this tiny cemetery in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, stopped to walk among the tombstones, and read each one. Some were too old for their message to be decipherable, but most dated from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. One, placed in 1918, had a small American flag stuck in the ground before it in respect for the 26 year-old killed in action during World War I.
The detail on Elijah Ested’s grave marker caught my eye. Whoever carved it did so with care. A decorative edge spanned the top. Two feathers, or palm branches, hugged the right side.
Below them, a small face appeared. I wonder about the identity of the visage skillfully engraved there.
I can only speculate to the conditions surrounding the creation of this small monument, but the care with which someone hand carved it is noteworthy. Not only was it a difficult job, its construction mattered deeply to someone. Over 150 years have passed and Elijah Ested’s memory lives on because of love. He must have been quite a man.