on the way to a grave: for Alice Finch

aliceportraitAfter a life among pines, they laid you to rest on the back end of the cemetery in Waverly, Texas.

Virginia-born, the Civil War wrested you from your Woodvale home, south of Richmond. You brought your journals with you and your longing to acquire knowledge.

Through your journals, I know you. I’ve studied your what you wrote the year after Civil War ended and the journal of your final years. You landed in Alabama, near the riverboat port at Bell’s Landing, married and started your family there. And at last, to Texas, where you “feeble frame” rests.

I visited your family’s Alabama graves near Monroeville, Evergreen, and Atmore, too. Your mother and father outlived you, but rest today in Evergreen, near a cedar tree on a hill on Cemetery Road. One Christmas-time, with only an hour to find them among a thousand gravestones, I said a prayer and walked straight to them.

Fannie and John Robert Finch
Alice’s parents, buried in Evergreen, Alabama, on a hill near a cedar tree.

Your baby brother, Jim Finch, named his two daughters after you and your mother: Alice and Frances Finch. Two of Frances’ daughters sought the mountain of knowledge, too. Her daughter — another Alice — practiced law until she was 101 years old. Frances’ daughter, Nelle Harper Lee, wrote a famous book that moved the world.

The fruit of a home where the education of daughters was valued.

You married a descendant of an infamous Salem judge who wrote early abolitionist papers. Of your five boys and your one daughter, my great-grandmother, Edna Mae, was the one you wrote that you feared for most. You wrote about your children sitting under a tree, while you watched them play in the sand. A schoolteacher, Edna Mae married a German-speaking stranger named Jones. A gentle mother, her six children lived among the pines near the Red River, near Texarkana.

Alice and Dr. Sewall with four of their children.
The little girl is Edna Mae, my mother’s mother’s mother.
Waverly, Texas – circa 1890.


You held out till Texas for your last breath. Even though your grave is near the Sewall family gravestones, you seem so alone the times I visited your grave. The sacred and holy verse on your stone is faded from the weathering of years, but your words and writing live in me.

I visit your words and spirit often. No matter the distance in time or space, you stay close to my blood and bones. From womb to womb to womb to womb to womb, our story grows.

The Way to Alice Marshall Finch Sewall’s grave in Old Waverly, Texas




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