A Window in a Grave
"But, Daddy, I don't want to die. I'm afraid to be up there in the cemetery in a dark grave alone. Daddy, do I have to die?"
Little 8 year old Merritt Beardsley turned a hot feverish face to his father, who sat by his bedside. The cold wind of mid-December beat against the old farmhouse in the hills near Oxford and blew tiny jets of snow in around the window. The child was growing steadily weaker. It could only be a few hours now.
"Daddy, can't I have a window in my grave so I won't be in the dark? I am afraid of the dark Daddy."
Stalwart William Beardsley nodded his head. He was silent as his rough hand, made hard by years of toil in the fields, held the soft hot little hand of his son. Yes, if it would make the journey across the silent river any easier for the child, he would promise. Some way he would keep that promise.
"Yes, son," he said, trying to keep his voice from shaking, "you shall have your window. I'll make it so the morning sun will come in it every day. You shall not be in the dark."
So, on that bleak, cold night in late December, 1865, little Merritt Beardsley smiled faintly in gratitude to his grief-stricken father, and turned to greet an Unseen Messenger who had come to bear him to another realm, where pain and fever are unknown.
Today, in a tiny forgotten cemetery, far up in the Chenango hills, an unusual grave lies amoung a group of pines. The grave is a sepulcher built from stones from the field, and covered with a large stone slab. On one end of the tomb is a large, solid flat field stone, but in the middle of this stone is cut a square hole, into which is fitted a glass pane -- a window through which the morning sun can shine!
The little grave now has few visitors. Hidden behind the fieldstone wall of the cemetery, and lying in the midst of tall grass and weeds, it is not seen from the road. Neither are two other graves that are near it. A marker nearby tells how, 23 later, the father came to join his little son, to whom he had made a sacred promise one wild December night long ago. Another inscription, without a date, tells that Sarah, "The Beloved Wife of Williiam Beardsley" had also forgotten the toils of this world. The family is finally reunited in death.
Around the little group of pines a soft carpet of myrtle silences the tread of the visitor. Wild pinks, digitalis and ferns add an everlasting funereal atmosphere to the scene. Each morning as the sun rises over the hills to the east, the first gentle rays shine in through the window, as though to comfort the child who sleeps there.
The winds of a hundred Decembers have blown across the little cemetery in the Oxford hills, and the story of little Merritt Beardsley has been forgotten by all but the very old folks. But the grave is still there and the tiny coffin can be seen through the window cut in the slab of field stone.
As one stands and silently studies the hewn window, he tries to imagine what a labor of love it must have been for that forgotten father who kept his promise to the dying boy who was afraid of the dark.
From "Oxcarts Along The Chenango" by Roy Gallinger; published 1965 Fay Edward Faulkner, Heritage Press, Sherburne, NY.
Sandy Goodspeed adds: Merritt F Beardsley (1857-1865 Dec 15), s/o of William L Beardsley (1815-1883) and Sarah (Walker) Beardsley (1819-1885). Sarah was the daughter of James Walker and Jane (Padgett) Walker. The Cemetery is the Miller Cemetery located on the Rounds Farm in Oxford, NY.
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