A young boy on a school assignment finds his name on an old tombstone with a puzzling inscription and discovers an old family mystery.
When Rob Kelly was fourteen years old, his history teacher gave his class a very special assignment. He asked the students to go into the cemetery and take rubbings from soldiers' gravestones.
The idea was to find gravestones from the wars — the first, and second world wars, and even the Civil War — to give the young people an idea of how the wars had impacted people's lives throughout the generations.
For Rob, it would lead to a very personal revelation.
A history assignment led Rob to a discovery that changed his life. | Source: Unsplash
The Saturday after Mr. Ellis had given the kids the assignment, Rob and his best friend Tommy Holland went to the cemetery and started looking through the graves.
They made rubbings and noted when the men had been born, and the date of death often provided a clue. It was shocking to them to see how many young men had died very young, some only 18 or 19.
Then Tommy exclaimed, "Hey Rob! Isn't your real name Robson?"
Rob frowned. "Yeah, it is. So what?" he asked. Rob had never liked his name and had often complained to his parents about it.
"You can blame your grandmother," Rob's mother would say crossly. "She insisted on that name. Some family tradition!"
"I just found your grave!" | Source: Unsplash
"Well," Tommy said. "I just found your grave!"
Rob walked over to Tommy and looked down at a simple grave marker. It read: "Robson Matthew Kelly 1926 -1944" and underneath it said: "Give Him My Name."
"Robson Matthew Kelly..." gasped Rob. "But that is my name, exactly!"
"Man!" said Tommy shaking his head. "That's messed up! That's seriously CREEPY!"
Rob did a rubbing of the grave and took a photo, and that afternoon, when he got home, he showed it to his mother. "Did you name me after some dead dude?" he asked.
Rob was determined to discover the truth about his name. | Source: Unsplash
Rob's mom frowned. "Look, you'd better ask your dad," she said. "His mother was the one who suggested your name. She said it was a family thing."
"But..." Rob shook his head. "That doesn't make sense, cause dad's name is Peter!"
But Rob's mom was out of patience. "Ask your grandmother," she snapped. "I've got things to do!"
So Rob hopped onto his bike and cycled over to his grandmother Clarice's house. She was delighted to see him and gave him a huge hug. "What a treat!" she cried. "Come on in!"
Rob went in and sat down in the kitchen while his grandmother bustled around fixing him a sandwich. "Gran," he said. "I had a history assignment, and we had to do rubbings from graves, and I found this..."
Rob went to see his grandmother. | Source: Unsplash
He took out his cellphone and showed his grandmother the photo of Robson Matthew Kelly's grave. "And look, it says 'Give Him My Name.'"
Rob was stunned when he saw his grandmother start to cry. Suddenly, she looked her age, which he knew was in the nineties. (Gran was vain and never told anyone her birthdate).
"Oh, Rob," she whispered. "I wish... I guess this is a story you need to know. When I was fifteen, I was crazy in love with Robson Matthew Kelly. Oh, you should have seen him!
"He was eighteen years old and so dashing! He'd joined up on his birthday and he was proud of his uniform. He told me he was going to go save the world, then he was going to come back and marry me when I turned sixteen.
Grandma Pen showed Rob her old photos. | Source: Unsplash
"But six months later, he came back blind and without his legs. He was so badly wounded! And he couldn't see me, Rob, so I would sit at the hospital and hold his hand and talk to him.
"He never knew that tears were running down my face. They told us he wouldn't live. There were pieces of shrapnel inside him, close to his heart. One day, one of them would move...
"The thing is, Rob knew it. He said to me, 'Penny, I will never have the life I dreamed of with you, but please, one day, give your boy my name...don't let me be forgotten.'"
"Oh, I cried... And three days later, Rob died. He was gone and I was heartbroken. His younger brother Peter was just as devastated, and I guess our grief brought us together.
"When I was fifteen, I was crazy in love with Robson Matthew Kelly." | Source: Pexels
"We fell in love and we married, but Peter was always jealous of Rob. He always felt second best. He believed that if Rob had lived I would have married him instead, and he wasn't wrong.
"But I did love your grandfather. Anyway, it took us a long time to have a baby. I was forty-five when your daddy was born, and it was a terrible ordeal. I had a cesarean and was very ill for two weeks.
"When I was finally awake and aware, your grandfather told me he'd named your father after himself -- Peter. I was angry, I felt as if he'd stolen something from me, and from Robson.
"But... done was done, and I guess I understood why he'd done it. So when you were born, I asked your father to name you Robson Matthew Kelly after his uncle who died young.
"We fell in love and we married, but Peter was always jealous of Rob." | Source: Pexels
"Your dad obliged me, and your grandfather was furious, even after all those years. But I did what I'd promised Rob, I gave you his name, and he will never be forgotten."
Then Rob's grandmother got up and went upstairs. When she came back, she was holding a velvet bag. She put it on the table and opened it to reveal a lovely gold pocket watch and chain.
Grandma Penny flipped the watch over and showed Rob the engraving on the back: Robson Mattew Kelly. "It was HIS watch, he gave it to me for his namesake, Rob, and that's you. I hope you will cherish it as a memento of a very brave young man who meant a lot to me."
Then Gran Penny fetched boxes of old photos and showed Rob snaps of herself as a young girl standing next to a tall handsome boy. "Thank you, gran," Rob said. "You've given me a wonderful gift -- my own family history."
Grandma Penny gave Rob the pocket watch. | Source: Unsplash
When the time came to hand in the assignment, Rob wrote down the story of Robson Matthew Kelly who'd given up his dreams of a quiet life beside the girl he loved to fight for his country.
Mr. Ellis was so impressed that he gave Rob an A, but for Rob, the true achievement was to tell Robson's story and fulfill his grandmother's promise that he would never be forgotten.
When Rob finished high school, he followed in Robson's footsteps. He too joined the Navy to serve his country.
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