Monday, May 17, 2010

Grace on a Tombstone: A Story

He wasn’t sure where she’d been buried. Her parents had moved away, and he knew that if she’d been buried here, the only place would be White Cliff Cemetery, in the small hills out the western road from town. More than a decade ago.

He parked in front of the cemetery office, once a small frame farmhouse. An older man, late 60s, still tall and broad-shouldered with a shock of white-gray hair, answered his knock.

“Help you?”

He hesitated. “I’m trying to find a grave. But I’m not sure if she’s buried here or not.”

The man gave a short nod, motioning him inside what had been a living room or parlor but was now an office cluttered with paper, boxes and old filing cabinets. “Come in. What’s the name?”

“Elizabeth Prentiss.”

The man gave Sam a quick glance, and then nodded. “I think it’s section 3 but let me check.” He sat at a desk computer and typed in the information. “Section 3, Row 4. Walk up that middle walkway and it’ll be on your left.” He paused. “It’s a nice section. Quiet. Nice view.”

Sam nodded. “Thanks.”

Walking up toward the gravesite, he didn’t see the man walk outside and watch him.


The June wind should have felt warmer than it did. Walking among the graves, Sam pulled the collar of his jacket up around his neck.

He knew it might be hard, but he wasn’t prepared for the tombstone. He saw her name, the dates of her birth and death, and then the inscription.

He fell to his knees and began to sob.


“It caused a ruckus, that tombstone,” said a voice behind him.

Sam turned, wiping his eyes, and saw the man from the office.

“Don’t mean to intrude, but when you said her name I figured you were Sam.”

“What ruckus?”

“Her parents insisted on the inscription. Made folks angry that her parents thought the jury was wrong when the whole town believed you were guilty; that prosecutor had you dead to rights. Shows you how gullible we are. But her parents, well, they never said one way or the other, at least to anyone I ever talked to, but they had to get a monument company in Bozeman to do it; the local people wouldn’t touch it. Engrave that inscription and they knew they’d lose business with the town.”

Sam thought of the crowds more than a decade before at the courthouse, screaming for him to hang; the woman who jumped the courtoom rail and hit him from behind, spitting on his face when he turned towards her; the rock thrown when they escorted him to the prison van. Life without parole. Ten years of life without parole.

“Her parents didn’t like me,” Sam said. “But Beth, well, she was more than I had any right to expect. More than I could have imagined.” He traced the inscription with his fingers. “It’s all gone now.”

The man looked up at the wide blue sky. “Well, maybe her parents were just stating facts." He watched a flock of birds overhead. "Or it might be one of those messages in a bottle, know what I mean?"


Elizabeth Ann Prentiss
June 16, 1978 - April 4, 2000
She loved Jesus,
And she loved Sam.




If you'd like to read more posts on grace, visit Bridget Chumbley's place for the One Word Blog Carnival.

Photograph: Beach, by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

24 comments:

Kathleen Overby said...

It's really not nice to leave us dangling over the cliff with a way more than good partial story.

jasonS said...

So is this a series? I want to know what happened! :) Thanks Glynn, great story.

n. davis rosback said...

oh my stars!
this is really really good.
i was instantly drawn into the story.

Helen said...

Wow! What ever happened to Sam?

S. Etole said...

Yes, really, really good ... what a message.

Candy said...

Next chapter, please? Riveting. Thanks you!

Russell Holloway said...

Great! ... loved it. A nice story about grace ... :-)

~*Michelle*~ said...

WOW...this has me glued here.

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

I want the rest of the story... I want to cry... wow.

Maureen said...

I'm with the others! What a perfect contribution about grace.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Oh ... my. So good. So, so good.

A Simple Country Girl said...

I am with Kathleen, dangling here over the edge. I don't know about her, but my granola bars and water are running low. I reckon I need some more of your words to chew on. ;-)

Blessings.

Duane Scott said...

Round #2 Please...

katdish said...

Oh, wow Glynn.

That was a beautiful beginning to a wonderful story I'll be writing in my head for the rest of the day.

Thank you.

Kass said...

We all want more. Grace us with a sequel.

Robin Arnold said...

More please sir.

Joyce said...

Okay, I turned the page...continue please.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

Glynn, on so many of your posts, I want to know more of the story.

On this one, I don't need it. In my heart I understand the grace that comes only with a tombstone.

Bridget Chumbley said...

So powerful, Glynn. What an example of grace... but I too would love to read more!

M.L. Gallagher said...

Gosh, that cliff has a real hanger to it! Hope I don't fall over waiting for more!

Sandra Heska King said...

Tissues. Where are my tissues?

Tricia said...

Once again, a beautiful story.

caryjo said...

I rarely read a post two or three times, or more, to make sure I'm catching all the innuendos and insights. This was totally heart catching. Thanks.

Laura said...

This is sooo good, Glynn. You simply must give us more! I'm already loving Sam. When I love the characters, I'm in fast. Will you be posting more? I'm thinking about the priest dancing on the beach...