Saturday, November 26, 2005

STOPPING


Hope
Originally uploaded by paperdollimages.

Visiting graves: I think it is a generational thing. My parents did it dutifully throughout my childhood. They bought or made seasonal baskets for Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, or various anniversaries, and made the rounds.

My mother's family rested in shady park-like grounds with respectable stones to tell the world they had a name, a season, and that they had been beloved. Interesting, isn't it? In life, we often judge a person by a complex set of standards, but the only thing that matters in death is that we were beloved.

My father's family was too poor for stone markers, but he knew exactly where to find them. He would walk purposefully to the precise barren spot where we left our whispered prayers and flowers. Recently I realized that the grassy spot he taught me to venerate was lost forever when he died. There is no longer anyone living who could find the way.

My father is buried in a military cemetery 30 to 60 minutes away depending on traffic. It is not a place I visit frequently, not the spot where I go to find the man who loved a great party or a well told story, and who wept secretly at sad movies.

But today, partly because I knew my mother wanted to go, and partly from some vestigial guilt, I visited to the grave. Instead of a seasonal basket, I brought a piece of beach glass I found this summer, and saved for the occasion, and a baby starfish. The sea glass was the color of my father's eyes.

After the long drive, we got out and walked to the marker, and once again, I felt the futility and of it--and the wonder. He was not there, after all! His name was there, the word beloved was there, but my father was not. We stood there for a few minutes contemplating the fact.

As we drove away, I looked at the others who had come to the cemetery today--groups of two and three, solitary visitors, one girl who'd brought a black lab. They were all doing the same thing we had done, stopping to look down at the earth.

Stopping to remember.

Stopping. >

9 comments:

tom said...

my family also visits the gravesites of loved ones....I should do it more often, except too many of my long-lost folk are planted fairly far away...my dad also is in a military cemetary one of the largest in the midwest, Jefferson Barracks...good luck with your novel..I am working on a childrens book...

rdl said...

I got a chill when I read this. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my father's death.

Quillhill said...

Since my father's death a couple years ago, I have visited his grave several times. I get a sense of awe when I look around and think that numerous members of his family are buried there, going back 150 years or so (which I know is not much)--just that time passes and everyone gathers at that one spot of ours. What I don't find, sadly, is any part of my father, so in that sense it is an empty gesture. Your are correct that it is a determined effort to put aside everything else and give that time solely to remembering our loved ones.

dog1net said...

Patry,
I love the imagery of the beach and the star fish. It gives a real sense of the child you once were in relation to your father, but more than that, it also creates the sense of loss you experience now. As you say later, you see your father's name, but then realize he's not really there. As you surmise with the image of "looking down at the earth," stopping to remember our loved ones helps us put things in perspective and lets us move on.
Scot

Patry Francis said...

Tom: Thanks for visiting and good luck with your children's book.

R: Nice post about your dad.

quillhill: With cremation becoming more prevalent, the act of grave visiting may well become even more obsolete. Thanks for your visit and your thoughtful comment.

Scot: Thanks for noticing my beach glass and my baby starfish. You always seem to see the most significant details.

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