By Mikki Bayles Palmer
Dedicated to the James Bean and Anna Maria Mickelsen Decker Family
Published 1980 in San Juan County Centennial Sampler
Bluff December 15, 1901
My beloved husband died today.
The sickness is throughout the house.
My small young son lies pale and still.
He too is dead; he is only five.
Weariness and sorrow weigh me down.
Dec. 16, 1901
Today again a life is stilled.
My darling Mary, just approaching womanhood.
The sounds of carpentry fill the night.
Three coffins must be made for burials
In cold and frozen ground.
January 25, 1902
Did we have Christmas?
I remember not.
The cabin smells again of suffering and death.
My stalwart son of seventeen lies quiet now,
His song of life cut short.
The winter wind blows,
Echoing the sorrow in my heart.
January 26, 1902
My own dear son is gone.
The softness of his laughter stilled.
He was just past ten, awakened not,
After the long dark night.
Friends come to wash and dress my dead.
The sound of hammers once more fill the night.
The men must carry the coffins
Up the steep and twisting trail.
The open graves are waiting.
Here my loved ones shall lie side by side,
On this barren windswept hill.
Below me in the valley I can see
The tall white house newly finished,
Stark and lonely in the winter morn.
I shall never live there now.
A song of sorrow fills the air
As friends and family gather round.
A prayer of comfort quietly is said.
I turn, blinded by my tears and blowing snow.
Retrace my steps a second time
To the still empty cabin
at the foot of the hill.
Note: This poem is based upon the tragic events which befell the James Bean and Anna Maria Mickelsen Decker family during the winter of 1901-1902 when five members of the family died of diphtheria.