The day to honor fathers is coming to a close. From handmade cards, to expensive tools, from home cooked meals to high end dining we search for ways to honor paternity. Honoring our fathers is a learned skill. The marketplace works hard to add price tags to the sound of children, young and grown, blessing those who fathered them.
How do we honor those to whom honor is due? If the words “good” and “father” belong together, you are blessed. So, how to remember and share the blessing? I sit on the back porch swing as the sun sets and study one memorial to our father. It is impressive, a monument in stone that witnesses to Robert Murray’s work in forestry, and the CCC, his lessons in ecology, his charter membership in the Resource, Conservation and Development Council for WV, and his bone-deep love of nature that he shared with his only brother, Bill.
Visitors to the Inn compliment his daughters on how we’ve honored him. Sometimes I just nod, sometimes I confess that it isn’t exactly what it seems. It doesn’t mark his grave; it wasn’t his, originally. Our mother discovered it on sale, in Texas, a “returned” monument, so to speak. Somehow she talked a trucker into driving this 1,800 lb. stone tree from Texas to Elizabeth for free. I often wondered what my father thought of his future memorial, but he never said. The bronze plaque listing his service to his country was added after his death.
His grave is not in town; it’s in the apple orchard on the Spring Creek farm. It’s where he asked us to put his ashes, and in WV, you can still pick your own resting place on ground that you know and love. This memorial is not impressive; it looks like the work of a child. It’s not high and lifted up; it’s so low to the ground you can mow over it. Ashes, then a crudely shaped heart made out of concrete, with a name spelled out in marbles made in WV. They shine when the early morning sun reaches them.
Two different ways to honor. Two different spaces. Two holy human places. How do we honor those to whom honor is due? I know I’ve reached the time when I have to choose. Keep the Inn, my mother’s dream or the Spring Creek farm, my father’s legacy? The time to choose is coming, but tonight I just sit and swing.