I guess I should have noticed, when I made my rushed decorating visit to the graveyard a day or two prior to Memorial Day, that the top of the old, tall pillar had been damaged. But truth be told, with newer members of my family now at rest at Grand Valley Cemetery, I don’t make the rounds of the ancestors like I used to. After leaving flowers at the graves of my dad and nephew, I kicked myself for not bringing blooms for my grandparents, their infant sons, favorite older cousins, and a friend’s baby who are buried there. I didn’t even notice that the stone of my great-grandmother, Sena Jensen Taylor, which is shared with her husband Arthur Taylor, was missing its top.
Because Memorial Day is a heavy tourist weekend in Moab, I have in recent years made short shrift of my decorating visit, juggling both business and holiday activities. In years past I’ve joined other family members for a picnic on the cemetery lawn. We have a custom of picking flowers from the yard and bringing them in coffee cans full of water to the cemetery, where they last for a couple of hours before the nagging late spring winds do them in.
Last weekend I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t done proper service to the deceased, especially when I learned that Sena’s stone was broken. And though I’m no more close in relation than dozens of Sena’s other descendants, I guess it was likely for Carrie to call me, what with our shared name and all. “That’s no bother,” I told Carrie. “I will find out how to get it fixed.”
When I was a little girl I found it a bit creepy to see my name on a headstone at the cemetery. Now I think it’s a bit humorous. I like that I have her name, which is of Danish origin, and is actually short for her given first name of Nelsina, which I gave to my daughter for a middle name. I have the same initials too, which I also share with my dad who was Samuel John. I am Sena Jane.
It turns out that my name was somewhat common among Danish immigrants in the mid-1800s. Sena Jensen met my great grandfather in central Utah’s Sanpete County around 1880. Arthur was part of a large ranching and farming family; his father had at least two wives and each had several children. They all moved to Moab in 1881, Arthur having married Sena just the day prior to their journey in a double ceremony with another couple by the last name of Shafer. The army of 14 wagons and livestock that arrived in Moab in 1881, 15 years before Utah became a state, was the beginning of agricultural enterprise here. The Taylor and Shafer clans are among several other Moab pioneer families whose descendants are still going strong in Moab, and who have their own stories of immigration and adventure.
These histories are documented in the treasured books “Grand Memories,” published by the Moab camp of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1972, and in “A History of Grand County,” written by Richard A. Firmage as part of the Utah Centennial County History Series done in 1996. I am thankful for these books. I am a lazy historian, even when it comes to my own ancestry.
Each summer I often bump into people visiting Moab from Denmark, and I always ask them about my name. They often confirm that it or some iteration of it is still common in their country. I know of three people who are named Sena because their parents liked the sound of my name. One is a cousin, one is a young lady whose parents were my high school teachers, and one is a family friend from Phoenix whose parents have long enjoyed visiting here.
Back to the headstone, which has perched atop the lawn east of Moab since perhaps 1905, when Sena died, but more likely 1938, when her husband Arthur passed away: I fear that the rock finial will crumble with much manipulation, but perhaps a new one can be made to match. Either way, I hope Sena’s gravestone will be in full repair come next Memorial Day.