The Commonwealth War Graves Commission once again proves their worth.
I now know who was responsible for the inscription on John’s headstone. Documents recently added to John’s page on the CWGC website show that the next of kin contacted for the personalized inscription was one A. Harris who lived at 4 Cecil Street, Yeovil.
Most likely, this was John’s brother Albert. The house still exists but of course, Albert is long since dead.
The fact that it wasn’t Margaret Harris of Hereford suggests to me that Margaret was married to a different John Harris, and my memories of being single seem vindicated by this discovery.
At least I can rest easy that I probably didn’t leave behind a widow, but I feel bad for poor Albert. I don’t know if he’s the one, but I think at least one of John’s brothers lived into the 1970s. I wonder if he grew old and died in Yeovil, and I wonder if he ever thought about me as the years wore on. Maybe he still had letters and photographs from me.
Or maybe we were estranged and I had gone to Hereford to get away, and the brief, impersonal epitaph “He did his duty” was a backhanded gesture (as in “At least he did his duty, the drunken old sod!”). But I’d rather not believe it. I’d rather believe Albert was proud and loved me, and the stoicism of the inscription was just a bit of stiff upper lip. No one wants to believe they died alone and unloved, anyhow…
Sadly I don’t know. I remember nothing about my relationship with him. The only members of the family I clearly recall my feelings about were my mother and father and they were both dead by 1891.
Wish I could remember more. I wish I knew what the family thought of me, or whether they kept any shred of my existence. It would be sad if all I ever found were a few official documents, to be remembered forever only in the cold embrace of British bureaucracy. I had favorite songs, favorite foods, I laughed, I cried, I had a face, I had dreams and loves and opinions and emotions… and aside from a few fragmented memories of the person I was, there’s nothing of that. It’s all just type-written pages to show I was there.
I just want to see something, anything, that shows more than what the official records are interested in. I want to see what I looked like, or the letters I wrote, or someone’s recollection of me. Without that, John Harris is well and truly dead, buried, and forgotten.