Rather than fight the crowds at the mall on Black Friday, we took off for southern Illinois to see my cousin and her husband and to visit several family cemeteries. On the way to my cousin's house, we stopped in Elizabethtown, the county seat of Hardin County, Illinois. E'town is small, but full of history. One of my favorite places is the county courthouse. Many records for my family are found in this courthouse.
Two earlier courthouses were destroyed by fire so the earliest records, except for one deed book, date from 1884. At the bottom of the courthouse hill is the historic Rose Hotel
In front of the Rose Hotel, facing the Ohio River, is a Gazebo, providing a cool place to sit and watch river traffic.
Among older buildings in E'town is an old public school building. I don't know the when or how long this school was open, but I would guess sometime in the 20th century.
It was a beautiful day for a drive through one of the historic towns along the Ohio River. There are other old buildings in E'town, but I'll save those for another day.
What can be more fun than ranbling through the countryside visiting old cemeteries? This morning we visited Zoar United Church of Christ Church Cemetery in Warrick County, Indiana. It was established in 1857. The cemetery is well maintained and the tombstones are arranged in neat rows. Many of the inscriptions are in German.
Nearby is St. John's Catholic Cemetery, where many of the names on the tombstones are also German. It, too, is beautifully maintained. A long time ago someone told me that crosses often are a part of tombstones for Catholics. I don't know if this is true or not, but there are certainly a lot of crosses on tombstones in this cemetery.
I have been thinking a lot about my mother's last Christmas. I have promised myself not to dwell on memories of past Christmases, but here I am.
In early December of 2005, it was evident that Mother could no longer live in Kentucky. She was a recent widow, had a number of health problems and lived two hours from me, her only living child. So, we packed up enough furniture to furnish a two bedroom apartment and moved her here so I could keep an eye on her. It was not an easy decision for either of us to make. She would not be close to her friends and the few remaining siblings in Kentucky. I was bound to lose some of my treasured independence and this was difficult for me to accept. But, neither of us had a choice and the move was made.
After getting her moved into her apartment, first on the agenda was finding her a doctor she liked. After this was achieved, we entered the merry-go-round of doctor visits, sometimes followed by trips to the Emergency Room.
Lest you think all we did was things of a medical nature, be assured we did other things, too. We drove out in the country where we lived when I was a child, visited what little family we had in the area and went out for lunch a lot. Mother made friends with her new neighbors and even joined exercise and Bible study groups in the clubhouse at her apartment complex. She adapted to her new surroundings quickly and never once mentioned being lonely or missing her friends in Kentucky.
We also had time to talk and get used to living close to each other for the first time in many years. I heard stories old and new and had the opportunity to ask questions about her family and her childhood. I heard about when she and my dad were courting and where they were allowed to go (church) and not allowed to go (anywhere not church). Mother told me that after she and my dad married and moved across the Ohio River to Illinois, she felt like she was a million miles from her family even though she visited them often. Mother had always been a good storyteller and she had not lost her touch as she grew older.
Ten months after the move to Indiana, Mother learned she needed by-pass surgery. She did well and was recovering in a rehab center when her health began to deteriorate. She was in and out of the hospital several times. When I was a child, she comforted me by singing and it was my turn to do the same for her. Her favorite saying was "Better Days Are Coming." I lost count of the number of times I said that to her, not knowing if she heard me or not. On the 4th of December 2006, Mother quietly passed away. She was laid to rest beside my dad and my brother in the cemetery in Salem, where so many of our relatives are buried.
It is said that the pain of losing someone eases as time passes. I don't know if that is true or not. Sometimes there is such an ache to have one more conversation with Mother. I do know that last year, as hard as it was, brought us closer and I would not trade it for anything.