Roses for Catherine


I actually have a pioneer ancestor who was buried just south of where we live now. She was my great-great-great-great grandmother, Catherine Montgomery. Catherine was born in 1819 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada; and she died in 1883 in Springville, Utah. 

Imagining Catherine liked roses, I cut a small bouquet of them from my garden, and my family loaded into the van for a Memorial Day trip to the south. I thought it would be great for my kids to have a physical memory of honoring one of their pioneer ancestors. 

Arriving at the cemetery, we stepped confidently from the van, scanning the terrain for the marble pillar headstone we had seen in a photo on the Internet. But although we found many a pillar, none of them bore the name of Catherine Montgomery (or Snyder, which was her married name). 

We decided to consult the graveyard directory, where we eventually discovered we had been searching the wrong graveyard. So we drove to Springville’s other cemetery and again fanned out across the cemetery, holding our roses expectantly, sure that at any moment we would spot Catherine’s headstone.

This is point in the story where the reader expects to find a stunning climax, where we discover the grave of our long-lost ancestor, and we get a family picture that poignantly captures the passage of generations and the very brink of genetic possibilities. The reader doesn’t so much expect to find the family’s four-year-old piping up that she has to go potty really, really badly. But readers don’t always get what they want. And neither do long-lost descendants of venerated pioneer ancestors.

Imagining Catherine liked pragmatism, I packed my family back into the car and headed home to the potty. And imagining that Catherine liked to see her family enjoying themselves, I cleaned off my kitchen table and set the bouquet beautifully in the center of it. Thank you, Grandma Catherine, for letting me enjoy these wonderful roses!