Wednesday, October 10, 2012
THE STORIES BEHIND THE STONES
This is always a place of great tranquility, and, no matter what the season, there is great beauty to behold on every walk that we take. I love it because it is a place ideal for thinking and for pondering things that might otherwise go unnoticed. My favorite time to do so though is autumn, when colorful leaves twirl down to the earth to blanket the paths and the landscape beyond them. Throughout the grounds, massive oak trees grow; some which have rested here for over a century. The acorns from them scatter on the ground providing sustenance to the squirrels that scurry to and fro before us, as they carefully acquire the store that will sustain them for the winter. I think to myself, that this is a fine place to be a squirrel, for the trees provide food and shelter and even some water from the early morning dew that collects on their leaves.
Sometimes as I walk along, I think about the headstones that mark the graves, and how they are much like the grief that is felt for those who rest there. The old tombstones, weathered and crumbling, mark grief that was visited upon those graves in years past. The new stones carved from shiny granite or marble, mark grief that is still fresh, and it is by these graves that one is most likely to see mourners with tears upon their cheeks. Those tears reflect the sunlight off of them, much like the stones those loved ones stand beside.
At other times I read the names and dates as we meander by, and I find myself wondering about the stories behind the stones. There are two young people, not yet in their twenties and with different last names, whose graves lay side by side; almost touching. They died on the same day, and so I wonder if they were killed together in a tragic accident, and if their families found comfort by keeping them close, even in death. I ponder about the young toddler who died, and whose young father now rests beside him, after passing a few years later. I think to myself that he must have died of a broken heart, and it always makes me sad. I see the babies' graves; graves that are visited and tended to it would seem, no matter how many years have passed since the time of the child's death. Perhaps, it is true then, that the hardest deaths are those of a child, for they are always remembered by the families who loved them, even if their time together was for no more than a day.
I also remember the man that I noticed a few years ago, who stood at the far end of the cemetery looking oddly out of place. On his third day there, I realized that he was wearing the same clothes and I suspected he must be homeless. The pups and I hurried home and packed a hearty lunch, which we brought back to the cemetery and left on a bench where I knew he would see it. I returned a few hours later and it was gone, so, in the days that followed, the dogs and I walked elsewhere but returned every day to drop off a meal at the bench. I would see him watch the car as we drove up and wait until we pulled away before approaching the bench to retrieve it, and it always made me happy. Finally, after two weeks had passed, I walked up and noticed something sitting on the bench. It was all my Tupperware containers, cleaned and stacked, and waiting for me to take back home. I suspected that it was his way of saying goodbye, and although I left one last meal it remained there, in the same spot, when I returned to check the following day. I think of him often, as the pups and I pass by the bench, and I always say a little prayer that he is warm and safe; living a happy life, in a house of his own.
Some people think it odd that the dogs and I walk in this place, and they often tell me that they would find it scary or frightening to do so. Perhaps, I view it differently, because, as a young child, I so often accompanied my mother and siblings on trips to the cemetery to visit my father's grave. I remember my mother telling me how the first spring that followed my dad’s November death, her children would bring their little toy watering cans to assist her as she watered the seeds of grass on his grave site. I was just a newborn in her arms, when one of my brothers asked her a question that had troubled him. He wondered if she thought that his daddy minded that they watered him every day. She answered him with a gentle smile, and, as time went by, just as the barren ground on his grave began to heal when the seeds they had planted began to grow upon it, so, too, did their hearts, I think, right along with that green grass.
For me and my sweet pups, the cemetery will remain a place of beauty and tranquility. It will always be a place of healing and comfort, as well as a place for pondering things; such as how answering a young child's questions about death, often provides us with answers about life. And, of course, it will always be a place to think about the stories behind the stones. Blessings ~ Amycita~
Posted by amycita at 7:17 PM