April 26, 2013 § 5 Comments
Some of the dead have “Gone Fishing.” Some are “Gone But Not Forgotten,” although with a death date more than 50 years past, I wonder, are all those tasked with remembering beneath the grass as well?
Still, it’s a cheerful place to wait out eternity. Conflagrations of statuary; everything from lawn jockeys to saluting soldiers to dime-store china dogs keep the dead company.
Many family plots include a bench for the comfort of those not in repose. The artificial flowers, in permanent bloom, are refreshed regularly.
Walk the edges of the cemetery and you will find bright individual blooms wind scattered. They catch your eye, as if they were real. Treated with ultraviolet dyes they sometimes fool the bees and butterflies as well.
Walking the cemetery, I read stones, which often often bear little more than a name and a span of dates–a flash novel–but it is enough to start me speculating.
Some of those stories are unfinished, the birthdate carved, death date absent as if the carver is waiting to close the parentheses of a life.
I compare the length of my mortal coil to theirs.
Birth dates that come after mine disturb me. What? Born in ’57 and dead already?
Then there are the ninety-plus-year-olds and I think, do I have it in me to go that long and not feel as if I have been left to dry on the tide line, cast up and irrelevant.
Many are labeled “Brother,” “Father,” “Mom.” No one lies down as a banker, lawyer, or a maid. Those who choose the inscriptions remember who the dead were in their own lives. To be forever remembered as a beloved wife and mother is not a bad thing.
My own people are not here. Most of them lie under northern oaks and dark pines in Rockland Cemetery in Sparkill, New York.
There, the ground freezes hard, and death has a more somber cast. There are flowers, yes, and what my family calls “grave blankets,” a winter arrangement of pine boughs, a single red bow, a branch of holly berries.
On some of the markers you will see a row of stones arranged as if on a windowsill. Each signifies a visit to the grave. I’ve come with a stone in my pocket and left with both my pocket and my heart empty.
Cheerful or somber, I will never be buried in a cemetery. I’m too cheap to pay for that hole in the ground, and all the trimmings.
I hope to be scattered in the sunlight somewhere, and like the silk flowers of Magnolia, travel on the wind.
But without the reminder that I should not be forgotten I hope I will be remembered as Mother, Good Neighbor, Wife, and Friend.
But that comes later.
While my life is still an open parentheses I will visit Magnolia Cemetery and get comfortable with death, which, appears to be not so sad after all, but more like a festive sendoff, with party hats.
Note: You can blow the images up by clicking on them. Ray’s photos are always worth the click.