Over the summer, I visited my parents in East Texas, where they have chosen to retire, a choice about which they never tire of complaining. While there, my father had to run an errand in Henderson, Texas, a small town about 30 minutes south of theirs, and I decided to go along for the ride.
In Dallas, a trip anywhere usually means driving over countless freeways and merging in and out of traffic, except, of course, when caught in traffic, where one might sit for more than an hour. Thank god for NPR.
A trip through East Texas, however, has a completely different meaning, as the route is a two-lane highway that curves through farm land and is bordered on both sides by forests of pine trees. The pine trees in East Texas never cease to thrill me, and I often feel as though they knowingly mock the city with their tall slender beauty, growing gracefully toward the sky.
“Take that, City Girl. Your high-rise buildings have nothing on us.”
And it’s true.
After my father finished his errand in Henderson, I asked him to drive me through town, hoping to glimpse a view of a small-town square and snap a few photos. The square was exactly as I’d envisioned, but it was a cemetery near the middle of town that caught my eye.
Like the pine trees in the surrounding forests, the grave stones, too, rose toward the heavens–beautiful marble statues directing those over whom they kept watch.
As my father waited patiently in his air conditioned car, I walked beneath a hot summer sun, dusting off graves to see the dates. Many stones revealed dates back to the early 1800s, and I tried to envision these early settlers of a small, East Texan town, wondering if any might be my own ancestors–my presence proof that their lives continue beyond the grave.
The grave I found most striking was a statue of Justitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, marking the grave of Judge William Wright Morris, for whom Morris County is named. Some of the smaller grave stones, however, had crumbled or fallen, perhaps a result of age or the boredom of young kids in a small town.
The Henderson City Cemetery, however, was well worth the brief half-hour I spent walking through 100-degree heat. New Orleans may boast one of the most striking cemeteries in the nation, but like the pine trees leading into town, this tiny cemetery, tucked so quietly away, is strikingly beautiful in a most subtle and graceful way.