I Learn I Have a Great Aunt

Who, born mentally-handicapped,

Lived in an institution, died young,

and was cremated. Dad’s cousin

ensured her ashes were buried

alongside her brother

Now that cemetery holds

four headstones and five lives.

These divisions of life that grid us

like coffins

eventually turn to earth.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels


Written for dVerse and retroactively for W3

Photo Credit: Steven S. Wallace


  1. Wonderful poem. I just got back from my mom’s internment at the national cemetery in Santa Fe. I found my grandfather and grandmother’s grave while I was there. They are in a grave with a headstone. My dad’s ashes are in a vault and mom’s joined his today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. After saving a thimbleful for each of her (5) children, I scattered my mother’s ashes over the grave of her parents and (hundreds of miles away) her stillborn grand-daughter. She left the task to me, knowing I would know her preference without having to ask.

    Fine work, this. Salute.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is a special form of respect to honor the wishes of the deceased. Amazing that she trusted you and you followed through.

      Also, I can’t tell from this description if “her stillborn granddaughter” = “your stillborn daughter” but in case case, I am sorry for such a loss and the loss of your mother too.


  3. Elegant. I’m not sure I have more to say. There’s a warmth here of family and loss that is often hard to capture. But there it is – you’ve done it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too had an aunt who was developmentally disabled. When my mom died, none of her nephews and nieces were able to serve as her legal guardian. So that was my priority when I retired from the Air Force. Sadly, within a year of my retirement, and just a few months after the process was completed, Evie passed away.

    My siblings and cousins were surprised by my undertaking this process, since we were free to visit her any time we wanted, in her group home. I told them that, as family, I felt we had a genuine obligation to care for her… not to mention that it would, by extension, honor the memory of our mother and our grandparents.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. a sad, moving story; one can only imagine what it was like behind the walls of the asylum; there’s the remains an old lunatic asylum in Adelaide, I sometimes try to imagine what it was like, all those untold stories —

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “four gravestones and five lives” This line says it all for me. So many lives that go unacknowledged and then are hidden away – so that not even the living are aware. Thanks for peeling back the veil and sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I credit my cousin who spent time looking into the family history and who made a point of sharing this information. I can’t comment on the decisions made by my ancestors whom I never met and who lived in a different time under different circumstances; I can only take this new knowledge and remember. Thank you.


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