Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 50th Rabbit - Meet Ruth Coker Burks - A Graveyard Rabbit Who Is On A Mission


The fiftieth in a series
featuring a member of the
Graveyard Rabbit Association




RUTH COKER BURKS


Ruth's Graveyard Rabbit Blog


I learned early in life the true value of a cemetery..and "EVERYTHING" that is buried there. At ten years of age, my grandmother died in an automobile accident. The trauma of the accident dulled compared to the family fight that ensued. My eccentric mother bought 262 grave spaces in the family cemetery. ALL of the remaining spaces so that her mother's brother, Uncle Fred, and his family could not be buried with the rest of the family. My mother then put up her marker that read in part, "Woe be onto you hypocrites, Pharisees and scribes" paraphrased from Matthew 23....to suit her needs..through out the next decade all I heard from both my mother, and the family was about the cemetery and "that marker" I have since donated the cemetery as a final resting place for over forty AIDS patients. I have worked as a Family Service Provider for Funeral homes and cemeteries for over 20 years. My then young daughter, Allison, and I hand dug over 40 graves..(holes ) for the urns of AIDS patients who died after their families abandoned them in their greatest hour of need and had do it yourself funerals for the ashes of those who needed us. Their families wouldn't even take their ashes when they died! So, they are buried in my family cemetery.


I made a pilgrimage today….Two and a half hours east of my hometown of Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, to a tiny spot down a narrow, tree lined road in the middle of vast soybean and rice fields. I found the somewhat abandoned Catholic Church that I was looking for. Saint Martha’s and her tiny cemetery around back, the only witnesses of the day were the bees that lived in the church.
My pilgrimage was to plant red roses at the grave of a nun, Mother Agnes Hart, who was born in Kentucky in 1797 and moved to Arkansas in 1838. She served with the Sisters of Loretto and came to the area with three other nuns to start the first Catholic school in Arkansas. Mother Agnes wrote desperate letters home in hope that help was on its way. She and the children were starving and getting sick. Sadly, help didn’t arrive in time and Mother Agnes Hart died of malaria a little over a year later in 1839, surrounded by the other nuns and the children whom she taught and loved. Mother Agnes was first buried in a cemetery along the river, then thirty years later, as the river flooded and tried to change its course, Mother Agnes’ friends and students disinterred her body to move it to higher ground. When they finally reached her body they found that it had miraculously been perfectly preserved and looked as if she had just died that very day! Remember, this is thirty years after her death and embalming was never done. Bodies which have not decomposed are a sign of miraculous intervention, according to the Roman Catholic Church.
Why would I, a stranger, make a pilgrimage to a grave of a woman who died some one hundred and twenty years before my birth? Because I wanted to pay homage to a soon to be Saint. Yes, a Saint in the Holy Catholic Church. This little know nun, in a grave in a tiny cemetery hidden within the vast grain fields of South West Arkansas. A full blown saint, as in the likes of St Francis of Assisi, Saint Andrew and Saint Jude. Yesterday, all of the television stations in the state were abuzz with the news that the Catholic Diocese of Arkansas was petitioning the Vatican to make Mother Agnes Hart a Saint. I just had to find her; I wanted to plant the roses, rub the stone that her students and friends so lovingly erected for her in 1885, offer a prayer for her sainthood and request an intervention for myself. Word has it that there is also a member of the church who was healed of cancer after asking for Mother Agnes to intervene. In order for the Vatican to canonize an individual as a saint, two miracles would need to be confirmed. One already has and I hope that the other will soon.

There was a short clip about Mother Agnes on 2 local TV news shows..I called both stations and the church and no one would tell me where she was..vandalism..so i used google earth and scanned the rice paddies and soybean fields of Jefferson County, AR...all i knew was that she was 10 miles NE of Pine Bluff..took an hour but, I found her!!







2 comments:

RuthCokerBurks said...

Thank you for picking me!!! Mother Agnes doesn't have much written about her but, after I got home from planting her roses I found that she was burried on a bed of roses!
Follow her on Face Book...http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=198251213133&ref=ts

RuthCokerBurks said...

Thank you for picking me!!

After returning from planting a rose on Mother Agnes' grave, I found out that she was buried on a bed of roses! how cool!!! Follow Mother Agnes on Face Book..type in...We want Mother Agnes Hart to be a Saint!
Thanks, again..
Ruth