A Mother's Love Never Dies

South of Kilgore, Texas on Highway 259 is a small country cemetery named Pirtle. In the middle of the sacred grounds, hidden among ornate gravestones pointing to the sky, is the grave of a small boy that is no longer marked. When it was fresh, his daddy, a hardworking but poor farmer, couldn't afford a formal marker so he carved his son's name and the year he died into a sandstone rock and placed it there. Over the years though, it has been lost or stolen or maybe the carving weathered away and a well-meaning groundskeeper thought it was just a rock and removed it. 

In life, that little boy was terrified of the dark and the monsters he believed came out when light went to sleep. It’s normal for children to be afraid of the dark and what might be lurking within it, but this little boy, for reasons known only in his innocent mind, was deathly afraid of it. Whenever he found himself in darkness, he would scream in fright and curl up on the ground in a shaking, quivering ball. He even had trouble trying to take a nap in the daytime because when he closed his eyes, the light dimmed.

It had been a difficult pregnancy and mother and baby had both barely survived the birth. He would be her only child as she could never have another. From the time his mother figured out why he would cry every night, she tried to calm him and keep the darkness away. Every night she would sit beside him on his bed with an oil lantern glowing on the table. She would whisper her forever love for him and kiss his forehead. She told him stories of brave knights who slew dragons for kings and queens who lived in far off castles and would softly sing lullabies until he finally drifted into sleep. Only then did she tip-toe to her own bed, leaving the lantern burning low. She would get up often during the night to check on the lantern, because if it burned out, he would wake up crying in terror.

The boy never got over his fear of the dark even as he got older. His few friends from the neighboring farms made fun of him and his father, despite love for his family, grew angry at the boy and resented his wife for her indulgence. Like all little boys, he desperately wanted his father to be proud of him so he tried hard to control his fears, but no matter how hard he tried, he could never suppress them.

One day shortly after he turned six, he “took The Fever” as they said back then and became very sick. For several weeks, his mother stayed at his bedside day and night, cooling his hot little body with a rag dipped in cool water she fetched from the well. Nothing more could be done though and she became ever more frantic as she helplessly watched her young son slowly get worse. In the middle of a dark moonless night, despite all of her efforts and prayers, the boy gave up the fight. With his eyes open and looking at his loving mother, he passed away. 

The next day, neighbors came to take the child’s body for burial, but the mother hugged the corpse to her chest crying, “You can’t take him! He’s afraid of the dark! He's so afraid of the dark!” Eventually, the doctor was summoned and he gave the woman laudanum so she would fall asleep and the dead child could be taken from her for burial.

After the burial in Pirtle Cemetery, the mother visited his grave every evening as the sun set and stayed there the whole night. Newcomers to the area would often ask about the flickering light they would see in the cemetery after dark. Was the cemetery haunted by spirits? No, they would be told, it's only a mother who was crazy with grief. The residents would sadly shake their heads and explain she thought she was comforting her dead son. She kept a lantern lit all night as she sat next to her little boy's grave, telling him she would never stop loving him, softly singing lullabies and telling tales of kings and queens and brave knights in shining armor who rode white horses and slayed dragons. She wouldn't leave until the morning sun rose above the horizon and filled the day with light.

The story goes that the poor mother died not a year later of grief. Her husband buried her beside their son, but it seems she sometimes pays a visit to her little boy at night. Many people have reported seeing a lantern light flickering in the darkness in the middle of the cemetery. The old-timers are sure it's that forlorn mother still comforting her son from beyond the grave. Proof a mother’s love never ends.

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