Copyright: J. Hardy Carroll

Here we are gathered for another week. This week we’re here in a virtual cemetery. Our hostess for this gathering is the gracious and talented artist and author, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. We’re the Friday Fictioneers, and the challenge this week, and every week, is for each of us to write an original story with no more than 100 words. It’s supposed to have a beginning, middle, end, and follow the picture prompt provided for the week. This week’s prompt was provided by J. Hardy Carroll. Thanks J. Hardy.

To read the other stories from group members, just click on the link given below, then on the little blue frog in the blue box. The link for the other stories this week is as follows:

Since today, Wednesday, November 11, is Veteran’s Day in the U.S.A., I want to join in with others in wishing Rochelle’s husband, Jan, a thank you for his twenty-eight years in the U.S. Navy. I’m also sending a thank you to all the men and women who have srved in the military in the past, and who are serving at present.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 100 Words

THE TOLL  by P.S. Joshi

Margaret took a trip  to the the southwestern part of the state to find graves of her paternal great grandparents deceased since the early 20th Century.

She first found the village cemetery of her dad’s maternal grandparents. With their graves she found the headstone of a grandchild born with hydrocephalous.

Later, she found the tiny roadside cemetery of her dad’s paternal grandparents. Along with their graves, were three other markers. Two were for girls who died as infants. The third was for a son who died in his twenties. Disease took a heartbreaking toll back then.



Written Act of Kindness Award


59 thoughts on “THE TOLL

    • Thanks, Mick. I remember when hydrocephalous was still a death sentence for a baby, when a child was kept in a dark room so their eyes woldn’t be affected by German measles, when there were children in iron lungs, etc. We’ve indeed come a long way. I’m so pleased you liked the story. It was based on some of my own relatives. —- Suzanne

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Patrick. Yes, it was heartbreaking. Out of four children, my one great grandmother lost three. I think diphtheria was probably the worst killer disease in those days, after small pox was pretty much conquered. —- Suzanne


  1. I can imagine. Rochelle. My dad and brother both made Chief, but didn’t become career men. My mom said my brother was determined to stay in until he made Chief like my dad. Dad was a Chief Boatswain’s Mate, and my brother was a Chief Petty Officer like Jan. My brother said once that he wished he’d stayed in the Navy. 🙂 — Suzanne


    • Thanks, Diana. They really do. My dad, mom, and I searched, and finally found, both old cemeteries. My dad copied the infornaton from all the headstones which I still have in his handwriting.. It was so sad. Actually one of the little girls, my grandfather’s sisters, was old enough when she died for my grandfather, her younger brother, to remember her. He had told my mother some years before that he did. My grandfather was born shortly after the end of the Civil War. I have a couple of pictures of his younger brother who died in this twenties. My dad–44 when I was born–was born in 1897. He told me there were quite a few Civil War soldiers around when he was young. They used to march in a parade every year. When I was younger, in the 1950’s, there were still two surviving, one from the North, and one from the South.They had been Civil War drummer boys. —- Suzanne


      • I didn’t realize it was a true story, Suzanne. So sad. My mother-in-law’s brother died as a child of an ear infection. That would be so rare these days. My grandfather was born in 1896. That sure does collapse time!


      • I had an ear infection in the late 1940’s. The doctor, an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist, and old schoolmate of my dad’s, sat me in a chair in his inner office and lanced my eardrum, painful but effective. I then was put in the hospital where they washed my ear out daily and gave me a sulfa drug to kill infection. I was allergic and got hives. That was before much of the public was given antibiotics. I was one of the lucky ones. It’s little wonder why they were called miracle drugs. If you’ve read Stephen King’s book “On Writing,” he went through a lot more because of ear infections. Some children did die of them. My dad used to say how much had changed since he was a child.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is sad to visit old cemeteries and read some of the inscriptions. It makes me think of all the lives that went before and wonder at how our lives can be forgotten. This was a good description of what you might see if you take the time to read.


    • Thanks, Deborah. People move around so much these days, probably some graves haven’t been visited by family or friends for years. My familes graves were in another state from where I was living. Now I’m in India. I haven’t been back to my parent’s graves since my mother’s funeral in 1994. For other relatives, it’s been even longer. I still remember all of them though. I’m so glad you liked the story. — Suzanne J.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My relatives are buried in a different part of my state and I haven’t been there to visit either. I think it is good we remember them. That is the most important part to remember the person.


  3. I have heard of uncles and grand uncles/aunts who never made it past teenage talked about in a loving way. The infants were not even counted and not named until three months because it was said they are not considered fully living until they cross the 3 month milestone. Nicely written story …brought back those memories.


    • Thanks, Ansumani. I’ve heard of the custom in India of not naming children until a certain number of months have passed. I also know that the first birthday is usually celebrated in a special way. How sad so many children in the world are still lost at an early age. Hopefully that will change. I’m sure it’s improved now over how it used to be. Of course the war zones are always terrible for loss of life. That’s a different situation. I know my story probably brought back memories for many. I’m so pleased you liked it. — Suzanne J.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, we have come a long way, medically. As for the rest, not so much. Not for nothing families tried to have large families; then counted on the fact that not all of them would make it to an age of being able to help along…


    • Thanks, Ali. Yes, it’s much better now, especially since they were able to fight diphtheria which was a real killer of young children. I suspect that three great aunts and an uncle of mine died of it as young children. My parents both had it, but were saved by the vacine that had just been discovered. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. — Suzanne J.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lorna. Yes, it was so sad. People faced so much heartbreak. My mother told he about her mother losing a toddler, and how she never totally got over it. She talked about the day he died for years. People used to remember and speak of those little ones. They were gone, but certainly not forgotten. — Suzanne

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Vinay. Yes, they never experienced much life before they were gone. It was really sad. They just left the little memories. I have photos of some of those little ones taken in happier times. Such sweet children. — Suzanne J.


    • Thanks, Dawn. Many familes no doubt had ancesters who died young, It was heartbreakingly common in times past, especially before medical science found a way to innoculate against diphtheria. I’m so pleased you liked the story. — Suzanne


    • Thanks, Alicia. It was indeed sad. I’m so pleased you liked the story the way I told it. Those poor mothers used to talk about the children they lost. I think it must have eased their pain a bit. They saved clippings of hair and photos taken earlier. My one grandmother even saved a piece of the black netting from the funeral of her toddler. I found it in her Bible. They must have felt so helpless. Those children didn’t die in a hospital, but in the family bedroom. It’s difficult to think of how they must have felt when they went in those rooms. I think a piece of me would have left and not returned. — Suzanne


  5. Nice one Suzzane. I once found a faded photograph of a young girl in my father’s house. It turned out he had another older sister who did not make it past her fifth birthday. My grandmother had kept it in her room all along.


  6. Thanks, Subroto. I’m so pleased you liked the story. I have an old picture of a todder taken near the end of the 19th Century. It was my mom’s older brother who died. Her mother had kept it. Mom said her mother used to talk about that little one, even the day he died. She felt so helpless. Mothers have a lasting connection with their children. — Suzanne


  7. Coming from New Orleans, I love cemeteries and the history of them. We used to have Yellow Fever epidemics, so the cemeteries have many infant graves.
    A meaningful piece for the prompt and Veterans Day.


    • Thanks, Ellespeth. How very sad that must have been. I’m so glad you liked the story. Those poor mother’s. It’s no wonder they had large families. They hoped some of the children would survive to adulthood. Just imagine. — Suzanne


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