John was a conscientious man.
He kept a tidy homestead and worked meticulously,
plowing straight furrows to plant his fields,
crafting a cozy cabin and a sturdy barn,
tending his livestock with care.
He was a tireless worker, and neighbors were thankful for his
dependability and willingness when it came time to
harvest crops or raise barns.
No one would ever forget John’s earnest diligence.
John was a devout man.
On Sundays, John put on his starched white shirt
and his best trousers,
clean even if a bit worn and frayed at the cuffs.
He walked the three miles to church each week,
regardless of the weather – hot or cold; wet or dry.
John sang harmony to the melody of the hymns,
his bass voice adding depth to the reedy sound
of the old, wheezing organ.
No one would ever forget John’s godliness.
John was a generous man.
He was quick to offer aid to those in need,
cutting firewood and delivering it to hapless widows,
providing work and food to hungry drifters – even when
he had no need of workers and had but little food to spare.
He patched leaks in the church roof to
keep the rain from soaking the rough-hewn pews,
even though his lingering cold might advance to pneumonia
and lay him low with illness.
No one would ever forget John’s selflessness.
When John died, he was laid to rest in the church cemetery.
The community paid for a carved headstone, and
someone brought a young shrub to plant nearby
in hopes it would provide beauty and shade to the
humble soul that lay beneath it.
A graveside service was held on a windy autumn day.
John was a conscientious, devout, generous man, the reverend said.
All those in attendance nodded their heads in solemn agreement.
John will always be in our hearts and will never be forgotten, said the reverend.
Farmers bowed their heads respectfully, and womenfolk
wept into their husbands’ shoulders.
By the time a century and more had passed,
John’s gravestone had taken to leaning askew.
Decades of weather had eroded John’s etched surname down to
undecipherable shallow furrows in the stone.
The shrub, planted with such care and caring, had grown
untended and unabated into rambling vines that
threatened to overtake John’s gravestone.
As John lay beneath the brambly bush
and the derelict head marker,
his body decayed down to bones and teeth,
his once-white, starched shirt now mere threads,
his friends long since gone,
it would appear that John had, indeed, been forgotten.
John is now only a faint name on a headstone,
but his name defies the ravages of time and harsh elements.
His name refuses to be blotted out by errant, overgrown foliage.
The details of John’s life have been lost over time, and
remain to be imagined by those who pass by and look upon his grave.
John – whoever he was and whatever he did –
as long as his name holds firm upon the marker
set by those who loved him, and
as long as the shrub caringly planted
continues to bloom despite its lack of care and attention,
John will not be forgotten.