Gilly Fitzpatrick was a grave digger.
Gilly Kirkpatrick was a gravedigger. He was also the son and grandson of gravediggers. It’s hard work but somebody has to do it and he was proud to.
Today, most of the digging is done with machinery so even as he grew older, he could still dig graves. But he had decided not long ago, that he needed a modern job title. When his boss gave him tickets to the movies, Gilly decided to see “Monuments Men”, thinking it was a movie he could to relate to.
In spite of his disappointment over the theme, Gilly decided to call himself a monument man, because now that grave-digging was easier and faster, he also cared for the grave-markers in the cemetery.
But he never forgot the roots of his job, ever. When his particular branch of the Kirkpatrick clan had been forced to leave the Auld Sod during the big Potato Famine, he’d been a mere babe. As he grew, he’d watched his father and grandfather struggle to find work.
Being poor and illiterate, work in the city was hard to find for the Kirkpatrick men. Gilly grudgingly went to school where he learned to read, write and cipher. Shortly after, everyone who could work, had to.
The Kirkpatricks were increasing by leaps and bounds. Soon they filled an apartment block and were starting on the one across the street. When his grandfather died the year Gilly turned ten, he begged his Da to get him work as his assistant.
When the young lad saw where his father worked, he was in awe. Many Saints Cemetery was acres of rolling grass with stands of trees at intervals. When Gilly saw there were only scattered areas of graves and monuments, he wondered why so much land was needed.
By the time he was a wiry and well-muscled sixteen, he saw how fast the place filled up as the city grew around it. It was around that time, Gilly was offered a part-night watchman position. Since he was engaged, he decided to take it.
His first shift was Halloween night. It started out fine, but soon ghosts and ghouls began to rise from the graves or arrive through the closed gates. Gilly was fascinated and watched the partying and carousing they all did. By the stroke of midnight, they were gone.
Gilly kept what he saw to himself. But he vowed to always make sure he was working All Hallows Eve after that. Except, of course, when he went to war.
Lying about his age that same year, he went with pride. He felt that the reason he made it was because that Halloween night had made him fearless. When the Second World War came around, he was ready to serve again.
The Army of Engineers was where he learned to use heavy machinery. When he demobbed, Gilly was welcomed back gratefully as he had the new skills he would need to continue the job. The only place he ever dug by hand after that, was the Potter’s Field. The area was so small and few graves there had headstones.
But the real reason was deeper than practicality. Many of his family were buried there, so he was always careful around them. In fact, he often talked to them as he dug and that was easier if you dug by hand.
One Halloween, Gilly was dozing on a bench in the cemetery as he waited for the party to begin. His years were heavy on him now. His beloved wife was gone and his children scattered.
He now did only night watchman duties and care-taking of the stones. But Gilly felt as if he belonged only in this place.
His eyes snapped open.
He was surrounded by the shades of his departed family. They gathered around to hug and kiss him and welcome him back to the fold.
Gilly was found stretched out on that same bench the next evening by someone visiting their own loved one, with a sweet smile on his face, quite dead. His boss had him buried with military honors him. At his own expense, he erected a beautiful stone engraved with the words: A Monumental Man.