cemetery thoughts

Yesterday my day’s work took me deep into rural Wisconsin. Along the way I drove by a cemetery. It was extremely foggy and unseasonably warm. On my way back home I decided to pull into the cemetery and look around. I’ve never shied from a cemetery. For some reason I’ve always found more comfort than creepiness there.

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As if the quietness of the rural area isn’t enough, the stillness of the cemetery grips me. I exit my vehicle. The sound of the door shutting is quickly swallowed up by the fog and replaced by the occasional falling leaf hitting a few branches on its way to its final resting place.

The headstones take seriously their job of telling a story with more mystery than truth. Which is a testament of continuity as it seems that we humans, even when alive, seem to prefer that method of storytelling. I gravitate to the older looking headstones. I guess I believe that the faded rock and veins of mold will connect me somehow to a time “farther back”. Do I think that I could more easily grab the vanished moment of last week than I could May 26, 1908? And which one would be more valuable or novel of a find?

I kneel down in the wet leaves in front of a gravestone with a small picture of a man on it. He died in 1942. The picture was, no doubt, taken a few decades before that. I wipe the dew and dirt away. The stillness of his faded image is contrasted with the cool reddish brown mud dripping over my pink fingertips. I honor him by noticing the dampness of the leaves seeping through denim onto my knees. After all, he helped fuel this tree. And it has returned the favor by decorating his grave just in time for fall. One day I will nourish a tree or some flowers, and so will you. Brings new meaning to the sentence “I like to compost.”

I visit some other names and numbers and am struck with how there is no apparent rhyme to any of it, but then I realize that the verse is not in the stone carvings. The verse is in what is heard by the listener. I am the silent listener today. There is no noise of self-pity here. I need nothing from these names. I am free to conjure up as much kindess as I dare with no expectations of anything in return.

I snap a few pictures, and drive away. The question is then birthed “What if I could transfer that ease with which I cared for the dead, to the living?” What if I were full enough, on a heart level, to not need anything from those around me? What if that freed me up to cultivate as much love and kindness with no expectations of it coming back my way?

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There is no place like a cemetery to remind you that you are truly alive. However, the thoughtful filling of your lungs will do the same thing. Be alive. Be grateful. Don’t pity yourself, share it.

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