I Didn’t Know you Slept Below

I didn’t know you slept below.

We came to visit like the rest,

Where headstones tell the history

Of those who didn’t make it west.

I said the stories; tried to tell

The little boys who climbed the stone

Of “blessed, honored pioneers,”

Not knowing I spoke of our own.

Did you listen from above,

Truly glad we finally came?

As I spewed history to my sons,

Did you listen for your name?

But we just threw a blanket down,

Played with the kids and had a snack.

We snapped a picture by your grave,

Your name emblazoned on the plaque,

Then drove away.  You stayed behind-

Your life given for my own.

Please forgive my tourist heart-

I didn’t know you slept below.

I wrote this poem after discovering that my ancestor died at Winter Quarters, Nebraska during the mass migration across the United States and was buried in a mass grave. A well-known sculpture now marks the burial site. I visited the site years ago with my husband and two sons, before I knew about my family history. I had no idea he slept below.

The statue that marks the mass grave where three of my ancestors are buried.

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