Voices: 'A stone for Earl'
By Marie Hitz
My father lost his farm during the Depression, as did many others, causing him to become a tenant farmer, meaning we moved often.
March meant moving time so the spring plowing, etc. could get started. It was during one of these years, when I was 7, my mother gave birth to their ninth child, in a home delivery. She had gone into labor early, probably due to the hard work of packing, taking care of the younger children along with the other chores. And because the baby was premature, he died shortly after birth.
I later learned they named him Earl John.
Because I was so young, I did not understand the event going on in the house and did not realize a baby was being born. I do remember, for several days, things remained very quiet. But later, everything returned to normal and we continued on with our move so the next tenant could move in.
For years, no one spoke of the little baby boy. It was almost as if he were a ghost baby. It was very difficult for my mother to speak of him, saying only once, that losing a child was the worse thing that a person could experience.
Once when I was rummaging through one of her dresser drawers, I found a casket plate with "Our Darling" written on it and I asked her about it. She only said, it was taken from Earl's little casket.
Three years after Earl's death, my mother gave birth to Ruth, her 10th and last child.
When we were older, Ruth and I made a number of different excursions to cemeteries, and several times we visited our grandfather and grandmother's grave in the Flatville cemetery. We new that Earl was buried in the same cemetery but did not know where.
Each time we visited there, she and I would speak of Earl and she often said, "we should get a stone for Earl." On Memorial Day when we decorated family graves, Ruth would say, "We really should get a stone for Earl."
After my mother passed away, Ruth was in charge of getting a marker for her grave. At the same time, unbeknown to us, Ruth scoped out where Earl was buried and made arrangements with the monument company to prepare some kind of remembrance for Earl.
Because the cemetery where my mother was buried only allowed flat markers, Ruth ordered the same for Earl.
It was not fancy, but the next time we visited the gravesite, there was indeed, in essence, "a stone for Earl."
Marie Hitz of Paxton is a widow and a retired nurse.