Hidden in the mountains of North Georgia is the seemly forgotten town of Dial. It has been forgotten by time as well as by people. Its population is scarce with only 1,586 people there if you include the nearby communities of Noontootla, Coopers Creek, Aska, and others.

The small dirt road that winds through the plethora of trees leads to a small country church. A church for which indoor plumbing is still a luxury still unafforded. A church in which electric lights started guiding it’s parishioners through the pews decades after surrounding communities had enjoyed its wonder. The church is Tilley Baptist Church which was established in 1858 and still has both his and hers outhouses.

You won’t find much in this small town aside from a couple of churches and a small store/restaurant combo. However, it is the community from which my roots grew and spread out into neighboring areas. For beside this little church is a cemetery and within the ground is relatives of mine. Here lies Longs, Meyers, Kendalls, and Garlands just to name a few.

Their tombstones decorate the hill with a faint reminder to those passing through that life is short. For some can only claim one or two days of breath, while others still only a few short decades. Some of the stones are broken or weathered beyond readability. Others are ornate and hold claim to a life of luxury beyond the typical hardships of the people of Appalachia at the time.

A few miles up the road in a slightly more civilized area is the Dial Church of Christ where even more of my ancestors line the hillside. My grandparents and a few of my aunts and uncles are among them. I attended more than a few funerals within the sacred walls of these two churches and mourned with long lost relatives for there are few things my family did together as well as death. Death brought something it seemed nothing else could – unity.

Scattered family members would make the long trek back to the foothills of their home.  During a funeral, we also found it easier to get along for we shared the same sadness and the same sense of loss. We would gather and weep at the funeral home and then travel to the small churches and mourn some more for in reality there was an undercurrent of love that ran through us all. When, in their final resting places, our beloved was settled, we feasted and celebrated their life and the fact that it was not yet our turn to rest eternally, sharing a few moments of happiness before the wave of grief would again take hold.

It was during these short times that I saw and understood kinship. It was a feeling I wanted to last, but its presence was short lived. For only a few days later, the gossip, anger, and bitterness would again start causing division. The genetic code is the fine fiber that connects us one to another and builds a family like a spider creating a web. However, too many of us fail to realize the fragility of this connecting fiber.

After the death of my grandmother, the separation between the rest of the family increased and times of togetherness were more scarce. These times were in the first half of my childhood. The second half, I seemed to have a little family to have come from such an enormous group of relatives.

It had been many years since I had visited the area, but today we made the journey. I enjoyed the view of the fields surrounded by mountain ridges. The colors of fall sprinkled the hillsides. The last of the green succumbing to the gold, red, and orange hues that bring thousands of tourists to the area each year.

As the pavement ended, the sides of the road turned gray. It gave the impression of a light dusting of snow and held a beauty all its own. Yet, it was an illusion for the sight was a thick covering of dust kicked up by the passing vehicles. This summer had offered too little rain, and the heaviness of this burden showed in the drooping leaves. It was as if a sense of sadness had overcome them.

Woo to anyone that meets another vehicle on this narrow road. The only saving grace is that no one can travel at too fast on such a trail for if one did, their teeth would surely notice the washboard effect of the gravel and uneven ground. It took an unspoken courtesy to get passed on another and continue to one’s original destination.

Several things had changed since my last excursion here. There was little evidence left of the one and two room buildings many people had called home when my mother was growing up in the area. Several of the older houses were in disrepair or had fallen in altogether. In a few places, new homes stood instead – expensive homes as this community had not seen before.

However, most of the area was still the same. The lazy river meandered beside the road, twisting and turning through the countryside. The closest neighbor being a great distance apart. An indescribable beauty found only in a rural area.

I had wanted to go back and visit the places of my childhood, but I realized I had waited too long. For most of the people, my childhood had known already traveled to the great beyond and those that were left wouldn’t recognize the young girl they had once known all grown up.

In the same sense, however, I had not waited long enough for the insistence of my 14-year-old just wanting to get back home, and the indifference of my five other children showed they were not yet old enough to care about their heritage. Perhaps one day it will matter to them. Perhaps one day, before it is too late and I, too am just a memory and a mark on a hillside.