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.