Magpie Monday – Sentinel

From Sentinel (2009 NaNo Novel, unfinished):

Savannah Citizen’s Journal – April 10th, 1962

Roses for Emmaline
Long Standing Tradition Continues After Re-interment

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah   Spring flowers are in full bloom and the cemetery has taken on an air of solemn optimism with the return of spring.  In one of the oldest family plots in Bonaventure, a single red rose graces a well worn tombstone bearing the name Emmaline Harper, a symbol of an undying love that has spanned more than two hundred years.

Last fall, the Harper family patriarch, Jefferson Davis Harper, made the difficult decision to move the earthly remains of several of his ancestors from Colonial Park Cemetery to the Harper family plot at Bonaventure.  At the time of the re-interment, Harper cited increasing vandalism and general disrepair of Colonial Park as the reason for moving the burials.

Among those whose coffins were moved was that of Emmaline Harper.  The original headstone at Colonial Park read “Emmaline Harper, consort of (name removed), died 1752. Mother of Emma and Jamison.”  The name of Emmaline’s husband had been removed in a time before living memory according to the Harper family historian, Nelly Harper-Wells.  “Emmaline’s father was unhappy with her choice of husband. The husband had funded the memorial to her, but her father had someone later chisel off all traces of the husband’s name.  According to family legend, her father did it himself.  Unfortunately, the name of Emmaline’s husband has been lost from family memory”.

The grave  Emmaline became the source of a family mystery not long after her death.  Three times per year, a single rose appears on her grave, place by unseen hand.  According to Harper-Mills, a red rose appears each year on the anniversary of her death. Another appears every year on the fifth of November.

“No one knows the significance of November fifth and nothing I’ve found in the family’s papers would suggest a reason for this date’s importance.  We do know that a white rose appears on her grave on the anniversaries of her children’s births.  It’s quite touching, but the origin of this tradition is a mystery to the family.”

The mystery of the roses did not end with Emmaline’s re-interment at Bonaventure.  Last Tuesday, which marked the anniversary of her daughter’s death, a single white rose was found on her new headstone, as it has been for as long as Harper family history can recall.

“We have a journal from Emmaline’s granddaughter which refers to the phenomenon happening in the early part of the 1800’s.  It’s a bittersweet tradition that speaks volumes about the woman being honored.  While there are no notable accomplishments by Emmaline, she remains the subject of a loving tribute nearly two centuries after her death.  Will any of be so loved and remembered?”  Harper-Mills asked as she placed fresh lilies on the grave. Indeed, it would seem that even time cannot diminish the memory of love.


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