Back in the 1950s, one of my first jobs was working for Jane & Dot’s Flower Shop.
I especially enjoyed the holidays when I got to deliver huge floral wreaths to churches and cemeteries. I remember an occasion when Jane and I were at the Webster Cemetery placing Easter lilies on graves and Jane pointed out a peculiar grave. It was square and bordered with bricks.
“That grave used to have a glass top,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you could see the lady that was buried there.”
I noticed that there was no tombstone.
“No, all gone now.”
“She had no family here. No relatives to tend the grave. They moved away and never returned. I remember when the glass was broken.”
“Who did that?”
Jane snorted in disgust.
“A spoiled little brat. Carried a big rock from some place and dropped it on the glass. That person just sort of evaporated after that. Somebody took pity on the lady and filled in the grave. A few years and you would never know that person had been there. Grass grew and time passed. Now, everybody has forgotten.”
“Did you ever see her –the lady in the grave?”
“Oh, yes! She was beautiful. She wasn’t ‘six feet under’ either. Her face was just a foot below the glass. She looked peaceful. Made me think of that fairy tale.”
“Yeah, that one. She had on a lavender blouse, and her face seemed on the verge of waking, flushed and pink. I heard once that she was from Georgia and that she and her husband kept horses. That was how she died, according to the old story. She was riding a horse that fell and crushed her. Her husband had her buried like that, so he could still see her face. He would come here in the evening and sit. They say he talked to her. But he finally moved away.”
Jane’s story haunted me for 50 years. I moved away, taught school in Georgia, but finally come back to Sylva to stay. As luck would have it, one afternoon I visited a relative in the hospital and as I was leaving, I recognized the individual across the hall. It was Jane. It seemed like Jane always had a cigarette in her mouth, and she had one then.
“How are you doing, Jane?”
She didn’t know me. Stared at me for a long while and I finally prompted her with my grandfather’s name. They had been good friends. So, we talked a bit and I tried to call to mind events that we had shared, like a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., in a snowstorm and the flower truck stuck on an ice-bound road. She thought she remembered that, but then that was always happening during the traditional Christmas rush.
Then, I remembered the glass-covered grave.
“Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you are talking about.”
After a bit, I hushed. That memory had been erased; or maybe I made the whole thing up. I have been told that I have an overly active imagination. But, no this memory was true and real. The lavender blouse, the flushed face.
A few years ago, I read Leo Cowan’s “It Was This Way” and there, in the middle of Leo’s memories is a description of a moonlit night in Webster when he and a female companion walked up the hill in Webster to the cemetery and Lo! What does Leo do when his companion dropped her handbag on the top of the glass-covered grave? He not only retrieves the handbag but finds himself staring through the glass on this moon-lit face. He says that this is a ritual that courting couples who are out walking in Webster on a moon-lit nigh would repeat. The handbag was a means of getting males to look through the glass.
So, I didn’t make it up. Finally, I manage to get a meeting with Leo and I take a friend, Curtis Wood, with me to record the event. Leo is talkative and entertaining, but finally I get my nerve up and say, “Leo, about that glass covered grave – was it really there?”
“And you were face to face with the dead lady?”
“Well, now,” says Leo, “not exactly.”
And so it seems that this part of Leo’s book is not exactly factual. Leo thought it would just make a good scene.
“So you didn’t see the dead lady”?
“So she wasn’t there?”
“Oh, no, she was there. I just didn’t see her.
“Can you name somebody else that saw her?”
“Well, nobody comes to mind, but she was there!”
Was she? Does anyone remember seeing her? Anyone?