The Visitor by Brad Voelkel

Although some people may find it odd that we live next to a cemetery, you couldn’t ask for a better set of neighbors. They are quite, mind their own business and they never complain. Every day there are 20-25 cars that stop by there to pay their respects to friends and family.

There is one particular man who has caught my attention. He stops at the cemetery daily just before sunset and sometimes around lunch time. He is an older gentleman maybe in his 70’s. He drives an early 80’s Chevy van and he is always by himself. He sometimes sits in his van out front and never gets out. At first I thought he was a caretaker for the grounds there but I never saw him working. A couple of weeks ago I decided to watch him a little closer to see what he was actually doing.

On Monday this week I walked out on the front porch and I heard a trumpet play briefly and then stop, it was coming from the cemetery. I walked out into the yard but I didn’t see anything or anyone. I thought I was crazy or that the place was haunted and went back in. About 10 minutes later I went back outside and noticed this man’s van parked by the street. I stood out of sight and watched the man as he finished a beer, picked up a black bag, walked to his van and drove off. I thought to myself, great - the town drunk hangs out in the cemetery and drinks…

This evening just as we got home from eating supper this man’s van pulled back up to the cemetery. This time I stayed on the porch and watched him a little closer. He got out of his van with two beers and a black bag. I watched as he walked over to a gravesite and sat down. He opened a beer and sat it down on the grave and then he opened another. He sat for a minute talking while drinking his beer. About 10 minutes go by and then he starts to open his black bag. I thought to myself this must be where he keeps his beer…but to my surprise he pulls out an old trumpet. He plays a couple of short tunes like he was warming up or something. Then he put it back in the black bag and went back to his van, got in and sat with the door open. It looked like he was waiting for something or someone to get in. Another 10 minutes or so go by and he gets back out of the van with his trumpet and walked back to this grave and stood at attention. He picked up the trumpet and began to play Taps! When he was finished he saluted, turned, and in a marching manner walked back to his van and left.

This evening after I saw this, something told me that I should write this little story and share it with my friends and family. I said to myself, I am going to walk over to the cemetery that terrified me as a child at 9:45pm and see who this person was that this guy was playing Taps for. I got over to the grave which is covered in flowers and read the name and details off to Britney my wife who wrote them down for me.

Name: Emmett Lee Keith – 2nd Marine Div PFC Col 3 BNH - WWII
Born: 6/18/1921
Died: 6/19/1944 (today is June 19, 2010!!!)

He died the day after his birthday and at the young age of 23. As I moved flowers back from the headstone I noticed Emmet was also a Marine and a veteran of World War II. This young man may have given his life for this country but I am not 100% sure.

After talking to my parents who have lived in Shelby for the past 8-9 years they told me that this man has been visiting Mr. Keith’s grave for years although they were unaware that he did it daily.

I am not sure what drove me to write this story or to walk over to this young man’s grave in the middle of the night to find out that he died on this day 66 years ago. But a feeling of warmth surrounds me now knowing that I have given Mr. Keith some recognition - along with his faithful friend who visits him daily just to have a short conversation, share a beer and sign the day off with the most beautiful rendering of Taps that I have ever heard.

Happy Belated Birthday my neighbor and Rest in Peace…


Dawn Edwards said...

What a wonderful story. I am so glad that I took the time to read it. To be honest, I am more pleased that you took the time to write this story. Thank you, I am glad that I know about Mr. Keith and his faithful friend. Maybe a brother? Very interesting, thank you for opening the door in my mind. Keep up the excellent work!!
Dawn Edwards

Anonymous said...

Great read!! Love the story. Love those soldiers. Love those friends...that kind of friend... priceless. Thanks for sharing it. (Isabelle Bazan)

Post a Comment

Give me some love! :)