Off a county road in East Central Indiana, a stand of trees surrounded by a patchwork quilt of corn and soy beans fields interrupts the flat country landscape. My sister, Stephanie, our cousin, Donna, and her husband, David, and I, are in search of the graves of our ancestors. David, our determined driver, veers to the left, off the road and up the hill. Over fallen branches and leaves we go. When our van can carry us no farther, two of us continue on foot. Ahead is the wood pole fence that we must squeeze through to reach our destination.
Under a canopy of leaves, filtering the late afternoon sun, we are greeted by a concrete monument from the recent renovation, so new that it appears out of place. “Gard Cemetery”, it proclaims, and continues to list those who were interred here long ago. As we gaze past the monument, we realize we are ill equipped for what lies ahead. Waist high overgrowth covers all but the tallest headstone, as if to say, “We are at peace here. Leave us be.” But we are on a mission.
David begins trampling the weeds with his size 12s and creates a path for me and we work our way through the cemetery. The serenity of the hidden cemetery is interrupted by the “moooo” of a distant cow. David locates a long stick and begins tapping the ground through the weeds until he hears the “clink...clink” of stone. He tramples the weeds around the headstone to uncover our treasure. We revel in our victory, photograph the headstone and move on to the next one, hoping that it isn’t worn smooth with time.
Sadly, many of the stones are broken and lying flat on the ground, as if the earth is reaching up to claim her prize. David finds a short stick and pries a broken headstone out of the ground, to the dismay of all the bugs and worms living beneath it. The stone is illegible, so he props is up under a tree with other stones in much the same condition. We are losing the light and have to end our visit to this timeless sanctuary.