Thursday, September 18, 2008

White's Resting Place

As we walked through the still cemetery it was magical. The overcast sky hovered over the scene before us. There were a few birds singing. A Canadian Goose sat near a tree not far away. Quiet surrounded us. A beautiful Peace was everywhere.

In front of us was the most unusual Grave Stone I had ever seen. It was solid cement – unlike the fancy and polished stones that others had placed over their loved ones. Just cement made this marker.

But this was really different from anything before or after its placing. There was only one other that would be similar to it – over a bit north of this one. It was also cement but entirely different from the one in front of us.

Under the stone is buried W. A. White – who passed away on Oct 12, 1902 at 42 years of age. On the South Side of the stone there is the lettering informing you of who is located at the spot. That is all that is said. Nothing more. Until you move around to the East Side where more is written… “In Memory of Lena Mitchell wife of W.A. White, Died Mar 29, 1898, Aged 36 Years – also their son Gerald, aged 10 weeks. Remembered.”

As you put the South Side and East Side words together the whole story becomes more clear. Lena passed away in child birth. 10 weeks later little Gerald died. W.A. White was 38 years old when his beloved passed away that horrible Mar 29. Then W.A. lived for another 4 years passing in the fall, right around Thanksgiving(that we know today) – likely a broken hearted man that never recovered.

In 1898 it was not unusual for women to die in child birth in rural Canada. And it was not unusual for the child to die later without his mother there to look after him. And it was not unusual for a young father to sorrow – but with Child Birth Deaths being high – it was highly likely that the young father would marry again. W.A. did not marry again.

The grave stone indicates that W.A. White is buried here – and Lena is remembered… likely buried somewhere else.

Now the very unusual part of the Grave Marker…made of cement. It is finely crafted – actually poured then engraved is my guess – into the shape of a Log Cabin completed on all four sides. The brick chimney includes the fine detail of the mortar protruding from between the bricks. The ends of the logs are axe hewn. The front door where Lena’s name is inscribed has a finely crafted door pull and the cabin window is finely crafted as well… all out of cement.

My “romantic imagination” tells me more of the story – though I can find no other proof.

W.A. White and his new bride moved into their small, newly built log cabin somewhere out in the rural area from Lindsay, Ontario. Taking his new bride from her family(or place) in Lindsay they were continuing to develop their new land and new future together. They were deeply in love. Unlike other couples every one knew them as something special. Their commitment to each other was amazing.

Word came to their parents that possibly lived in Lindsay. They were to be grandparents. Their daughter Lena was to have a child. They were worried as she lived so far from the Town of Lindsay but were reassured, “I will be alright…everything will be just fine! Don’t worry.” said Lena in the fall of 1897.

Winter was hard in that little log cabin. There was lots of snow and W.A. worked hard to keep the water open for his animals to drink.

Then on March 28th it started to happen… Lena was having great pains… the baby was coming. They were not sure when it would happen. They had just known it would be soon. The deep snow outside had kept them in the cabin hoping for a break in the weather. But even if there had been a break – Lena was so uncomfortable that a ride out of their farm to the nearest next farm was almost impossible – let alone all the way to Lindsay. They would have to do this themselves – maybe even just W.A. – the young farmer – as the midwife… all alone and frightened to death.
After the baby finally was born he struggled to make her comfortable but she was very low. She had lost a lot of blood. I can only imagine what a young 38 year old man on 1897 might have thought when he stood over his deeply sleeping wife. And we will never know what actually happened at the end. With tiny Gerald crying for his first milk in the crib beside her – she could hear him but do nothing.

On the Grave Stone its says “In Memory of Lena Mitchell…” and then at last “Gerald 10 weeks – Remembered”.

It is not unlikely that W.A. buried his precious Lena near the cabin. Then he tried to look after tiny Gerald – if not for the 10 weeks at least until the weather changed enough for him to get out. Can you imagine keeping up the farm work and looking after a baby in 1898?

Remember… I said earlier… “My “romantic imagination” tells me more of the story.” I really don’t know what happened… I have only put pieces together.

As we stood quietly and looked on… the small log cabin told all of the story for whoever would stop and read it. We did. And I honour W.A. White whoever you were – you were a man of honour!

One final thing is the names. W.A. White had two names before his family name. Lena had only one.

In the tradition of their solid British heritage that said something all by itself…. W.A. White was from a family that had means – they were land owners in Britain before coming to Canada. W.A. may well have come on his own. Lena Mitchell, also from Britain, had one name only – her family did not come from the same class as his did. One name only meant that her parents did not own land and could not give their children two names. Servants maybe? Maybe working for the rich folks that lived in the big house?

Or maybe – just maybe – Lena Mitchell had been W.A. White’s parents maid in Lindsay… and W.A. fell in love with her… One question... who paid for and who made the Monument? Hmmm?

Ooops there goes My “romantic imagination” telling me more of the story.

With young couples living to the max today, stretched to the max with their over spending, maxed out Line of Credits…(the stuff I have been writing about) – this story adds another perspective.

I encourage you today to think about W.A. White and his Lena together with their little Gerald. And if you are in Lindsay – the Grave Marker is not far from the River, north end of the cemetery, cross the bridge – turn left at the pioneer history marker… past the tree where the Canada Goose was sitting…. Then on the left… among all the giants of great polished granite – you will find one small log cabin.

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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