To Thank a Gravestone

Liam Allen

My companions and I rose early in the morning to get a taxi to the Grantham train station. Our tickets would take us down to King’s Cross where we would transfer to Paddington to catch a second train to our final destination of Oxford. My friends were going down to see the city and university, but that was of secondary importance to me. I was going to see a grave. They knew, once we had finished visiting the Bodleian Library and the university shops,  I would drag them on a 15-minute bus ride downtown to a stop at Wolvercote Cemetary. I don’t think they minded as it was because of my interest that we booked those tickets and commenced this leg of our adventure in the first place.

The bus dropped us off at the cemetery gate, containing a trunk-like path that split off to allow access to every part of the graveyard. I noticed a patch of wildflowers growing just outside the gate and decided to take one with us for later use. A somber mood fell upon us, as any conversation we had cultivated on our bus ride over, quickly faded away as we stepped foot within the threshold. There was a small display at the entrance bearing the name of our destination with a helpful arrow to show us which path we should take. Though not a solitary soul marked the paths around us, fresh flowers of multiple contents were laid upon the gravestones, providing clear evidence of earlier visitors.

The path from the cemetery gate to our destination remind quiet, as we followed the occasional signs each bearing a direction to keep us on track, passing by graves grouped by family. We passed by both towering works of marble, expertly carved and lavishly made, and more simple graves, containing only a single flattened stone. In the back of this cemetery stood a grave bearing two names that had been visited for decades. While it was decorated it was far from some of the extravagances we had seen earlier, carved simply from stone with minor ornamentation on the edges.

“There it is,” I said softly as we reached the end of our adventure. There was the grave of a man I had never met and yet owed so much. We stood there for a moment before my friends wandered further down the path. I stayed behind for a moment and kneeled to place the wildflower I had picked earlier beside many others decorating the stone. “Thank you,” I said not knowing what more I could say to him. Then I stood up, and with a goodbye followed my friends away from the gravesite of J.R.R. Tolkien.

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