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Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
31 October 1999 Issue

THE GHOST AT THE FOOT OF THE BED
By

One would imagine that living next door to a cemetery could be, to say the least, a bit scary. But we don't feel that way about our cemetery, or perhaps I should say, THE CEMETERY. Because there is no other cemetery quite like Chippiannock, unless you're familiar with the Quad-Cities, you may never have heard of Chippiannock Cemetery. Located on a rolling hillside on Rock Island, it's name honors the local Indian culture of several hundred years ago.

Describing Chippiannock has always been a challenge for writers because it is far removed from a traditional cemetery. Not a subdivision-like layout here, with clone-like headstones or rows of perfectly spaced plots. Chippiannock is ... well... different. For instance, there is the full-size anchor, which adorns the grave of a ship's captain. Then there are the huge metallic balls that appear at several gravesides, seeming like the discarded marbles of an ancient giant's child, rather than memorials whose significance I can't even begin to imagine. Stone trees, an eternal baby's casket and more grace the thousands of graves on that rolling Illinois hillside.

Has Chippiannock ever frightened me? Truthfully no, because it always seemed so unique, almost a living tribute to the souls of the departed men, women, and children in the merciful Hand of God. Chippiannock does not make me think of the deaths of those buried there but rather of their lives. That's why for years I have loved walking its grounds with Sam, our four-year old Jack Russell Terrier, and have done so for many years. Finally a few months ago, Ruthie, my two-year-old daughter was old enough to join us on our excursions. Of course, Ruthie isn't much of a walker yet, which makes it interesting for me, coaxing Ruthie while trying to stop Sam from running after every squirrel in sight. We certainly have our fun, and I know Ruthie and Sam enjoy Chippiannock as much as I do.

After several visits, Ruthie had developed a favorite stop, where we just HAD TO GO each time. This was the grave of the Dimick children, Eddie and Josie, who were taken by illness from their families well over a hundred years ago. But after this tragic loss, Eddie and Josie's pet dog would go day after day to their gravesite, and just wait attentively for the children he loved so much to return. The Dimicks were so moved by the dog's devotion, that a full-size statue of the dog rests alongside Eddie's and Josie's grave...their eternal friend.

There was something about that dog, (he appears to have been a collie) that just moves my little Ruthie. Every time we visit Chippiannock she gives the statue of the dog a hug. Frankly I didn't think there could be much harm in it, until the day when Ruthie told me about "the doggies that sleep by her bed."

"You mean doggie, don't you Ruthie?" I asked her, knowing Sam often slept by the foot of her bed. He was very protective of Ruthie. "No," she said, "There's Sammy, and the other doggie. My newest friend I always hug." Well, besides Sammy, there could only be one other dog, "she always hugs", but I decided not to say anything more about it. My wife Becky and I could have a talk about this imaginary friend later.

I debated whether or not to stop our Chippiannock visits for awhile, but frankly Becky and I felt there were far worse imaginary friends a child could have! So our walks and Ruthie's hugs, continued. I didn't think much about it for several weeks, UNTIL last night.

I often peek into Ruthie's room late each night, for I am one of those fathers who worry about the slightest thing. Is Ruthie all right? Is she breathing OK? So I turned the doorknob quietly and peeked into her room. Because of what I saw that night, I don't feel I have to worry as much anymore. Ruthie looked fine, sleeping calmly, peaceful, and content. At the foot of her bed, Sam was also sleeping soundly.

At first I didn't see just beyond Sam, but as my eyes adjusted to the darkened room, I did. Opaque like a mist, with a gentle glow, lay the collie, quietly, vigilantly, sleeping. I must have let out a slight gasp at the sight, for he lifted his head and turned his face to me. As he looked into my eyes, I felt the devotion in his heart as his eyes told me "Thank you for letting me love your child too." With that, his gaze returned to Ruthie...ever faithful, obedient, and eternal in his devotion, My child's newest eternal friend...

For God created unto mortals a devoted heart, a faithful protector, if only we allow them into our hearts. The Ghosts At The Foot Of Our Beds.

-- Anonymous

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