If you’ve only recently started reading my blog you might not know that I have a second niece. She was born two years ago today and unfortunately only lived for 104 days.
She died when we were on the Appalachian Trail, so after we returned back to the trail from home after the funeral, cairns become something symbolic for me with her, Ashleigh. Typically cairns are used for marking a footpath or a particular place on a mountain but occasionally we’d come across great areas of them for no particular reason. The ones above, at Sunfish Pond in New Jersey, were simple and modest but they reminded me of her.
When we came across the ones at White Rock Cliffs in Vermont I made a tiny one for her. I didn’t take a photo of it at the time. But it is there among all the other cairns alongside the trail. It really is an amazing sight to round the corner and see the forest full of cairns.
And when we came to Galveston a few weekends ago and I saw the cairns lining the rocks on the Seawall near Fort Crockett, I knew I had to walk among them and make my own for her. They are a little hard to see in this pano—and it isn’t that great of one because I was not using a tripod and just a point and shoot camera.
I only met Ashleigh twice and never held her. Her parents, my brother and sister in law, of course had the privilege as did my parents, but when we left for the AT she was not in good enough health for other people to hold her just yet. And so, I had always hoped to be able to connect with her as I have my other niece and nephew but I never did in the way I thought I would. Instead now I try to remember her in these ways, building something more for myself to remind me of her, but also to leave a mark upon on the Earth for her, to let others knows whether they realize it or not, that a sweet little baby girl was here for 104 days and made a remarkable imprint on the lives of those who knew her.
Happy Birthday Ashleigh!