About a Stone, A Grandfather, and A Gift
By George O. Martin, Jr. 
I view my job somewhat differently I suppose, that’s why I do the things I do the way I do them. My job is to be in relationships with the people around me. The manner in which I do that is to look at them as gifts.

There had been a great many tears. The loss was real and deep and traumatic. There was a hurt that I didn’t feel, but could only see and hear. I couldn’t relate to that hurt, I couldn’t be sympathetic, or even empathetic. It would have been feigned if I had tried. But, a gift that had been given to me, a daughter (in-law) was there before me and she was hurting and deep in the throes of grieving and sorrow and pain, and I had to do something.

A few days before she had been pregnant; carrying twins. Now she was in sorrow and no longer with child. The twins had been born too soon, and breathed for only a few moments, and had died. Kathy and Daniel Martin is what she called them, and she buried them with love, ceremony and dignity; these gifts she was not allowed to keep.

They were not gifts to me. They were not mine, I didn’t know them. If anything they were an inconvenient sorrow; a discomfort for my own child; an interference in the relationship between me and the gift I had received. I had to do my job. I had to love the gift I had received. That’s the way I do my job. I am not capable of explaining, or placating; I can’t give reason because I don’t understand what the reasons are. And so, I did what I do, I loved her.

The children were brought to the center of most of her life, her home, this town, to be buried. They were placed in a grave near other children, and the church reassured, and blessed their lives and their grieving. I did not attend. It was private, I felt; not to be a noisy affair with much ado, just quiet and private, among those who knew each other. I did not attend and thereby protected myself from entering into the grief.

Time passed in chunks of anxious living. Nervous gestures on the part of everyone created tensions and misunderstandings. It was hard. It was sometimes impossible; and most of the times all I could do was love her, and sometimes that was a pitiful gesture. On one of those occasions, when I visited the gravesite with her, I made such an offering. The starkness and loneliness of the place was evident and depressing to her and to me; and in an effort to help move from that situation I said, “Would it be all right if I carved a stone marker?” and she said, “yes”, and she seemed pleased with the idea.

The stone I selected was oval shaped, flat on one side and rising into a mound on the other. Like a bowl of bread dough as the yeast works in it the first time. On it I carved two daisy-like flowers growing from a single stem. One of the flowers was open, the other really just a bud. The names, Katy and Daniel, were put on the left and the date of their single day was on the right. It wasn’t a beautiful stone, but I thought, it was fitting and adequate. I liked it and I thought she would also.

I put the spade into the truck along with the stone and went to the cemetery. It would be a simple task to set it where it belonged; to center it and level it. It would be necessary to remove an oval shape of sod from the site, down about three inches. I placed my foot on the spade and expecting the usual Kansas hardpan, pushed strongly on the blade. I hadn’t reckoned on the ground yielding so easily, and I was startled. It was as though I had rudely stepped into some place I wasn’t supposed to be.
I finished digging set the stone and brought dirt back up to its edges. When all was done I left my kneeling position and stood. For the first time, I was now involved in the lives of the two beneath that soft blanket of earth, and I cried. I cried because I did not know them before; I cried because of my own shielding callousness; I cried because I had refused to make them real until that moment. I cried because now I know them and they were in reality my own grandchildren who had died and not just the inconsolable grief of one I loved dearly. My placing the stone had allowed me to accept the mystery of the gift God had extended to all of us. Katy and Daniel were mine, too.

I thank God for these gifts.

Katy and Daniel were the infant twins of Micah and Joanne Martin.
George O. Martin is Katy and Daniel’s grandfather.