“Poor Helen” from “A Little Walk in a Cemetery”
by John Althouse, May 2014
It was a beautiful summer day, a... day for a quiet walk and contemplation…
I continue to receive the newspaper from the town of my birth in Saskatchewan. In 2006, an article appeared noting that a small rural church was marking its centenary. Almost immediately, I felt there was something special about that particular church. I soon realized as a child I enjoyed going for rides in my dad’s 1946 Maple Leaf gravel trucks to the gravel pit. We drove right by that church…. However, I felt that there was something more, but what was it?
A few days later, it came to me. One of those frequent trips, I recalled that someone else was with us, my grandfather I believe, although I am no longer certain of that. As we passed the church, he pointed and stated, “That’s where Helen is.” Helen was my father’s sister who died as a child. But, at that time, I had no immediate use for that tidbit of information and should have forgotten that this rather routine event had ever occurred.
Sixty years later, I began my work on the history of our family. By that time only one of my father’s siblings was still alive. When I asked her where Helen fit in the family and about the details of her life, she did not know. The only other indicator I had was the stories of another aunt who was handicapped. As a child, I would sit and listen attentively to her litany of short tales that for a child were long sessions. He tales of “poor Helen” gave details of their adventures together as well as the unfortunate plight of her sister. From the stories, my impression was that the sisters were very close in age. Unfortunately, my grandfather had rarely registered anything, his homestead and his wedding being the exceptions. So, the tales of my handicapped aunt were really all that I had for information until the story in the Courier unexpectedly awakened the related memory.
A few years later, I was returning to Edmonton from Winnipeg. As I approached Yorkton, I realized that I was only 40 miles from the church where Helen’s grave was located. I was ahead of time, which made the little side excursion seem to be an even better idea. I wouldn’t find anything; I’d merely stop there and pay my respects.
Read more about John’s exhaustive search for Helen in Saskatchewan resources and his cemetery walk-about from Relatively Speaking’s May 2014 issue.
More articles like this?
“Find-A-Grave Exploration”—Gloria (Kennett) Cathcart, May 2014
"Rock of Ages"—Kalé Liam Hobbes, February 2011
“Cataloguing Cemeteries — a Rewarding Experience,”—Clem and Doris Nadon, February 2007