Grand Canyon

You can’t paper over a schism. Schism’s are more than disagreements, issues, arguments, or “agree to disagree” sorts of things. They are Grand Canyon wide and deep. I know for several generations there was one in my family. It was a dispute over several square yards of soil in a foreign land – a cemetery plot. At some point, a controversy developed over who could get buried in the plot.

Now seriously, how many bodies can you squeeze into even a generous family plot? It’s not like they had an entire cemetery. So family members numbering scores settled in for a dispute over perhaps two or three burials. Cousins sought to derogate cousins; uncles grew nervous about the future posthumous habitation.

For several generations, this went on. And the family grew ever more fractured. Then, a new dispute opened up in this country. Younger family members did not know where the heck the damned plot was anyway!
At last, the contact between parts of the family grew so diffuse that they lost track of each other deliberately or on purpose.

My uncle was the last person in my immediate family in on the secret. An elderly great aunt had confided it to him just before she died. Having gained wisdom with age, he kept it secret and did not share it with more fractious members of our family. Before he died, he made me consent never to pursue the family vendetta of the burial plot. I asked him where it was – “Louis, it’s better that you never know. Promise me that you won’t research this.” So I promised.

That’s how schisms die; the memory and relevance slip away. Someone decides to lower it quietly into the ground and shovel dirt on top of it. Preferably, it happens late on a moonless night – because there will always be someone with a grudge waiting to dig the Grand Canyon at a well-attended funeral.

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