Early morning. The scent of nostalgia permeates my nose. Well, its the scent of manure spread on nearby pasture — but that is a thing I am well acquainted with from my childhood in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The encompassing surrounding of descriptive rocks crowds my eyesight. I’m taking a morning stroll through a cemetery. ‘Stroll’ almost sounds too pleasant of a thing amongst the dead. But it is in part, pleasant. The descriptive rocks are head stones. Some with just a last name. Some first and last. Many show a range of years reminding of the limits that come with being finite. Some describe the person simply, “Grandmother, mother, educator,” or “Pearl Harbor survivor,” or a nickname, “Flossy.” A few reference heaven or a verse of Scripture, and many quite simply say “At Rest.” I find this to be the pleasantness in part. There is no movement, no restlessness, no struggle. There is peace and solitude.
I don’t know where the idea to bring so many people who do or do not have any connection to each other — other than being human, which is perhaps the most significant connection of all — all to the same plot of land, bumped up against each other, beneath the earth’s crust. It seems odd to me. I imagine most people would want to be buried wherever home is to them. To rest in a place most familiar and comfortable. It seems like that would be proper. Maybe it’s impractical to have the dead strewn without order the whole country over. Maybe the dead require order and tidy little rows? Or maybe more likely it’s the living who require order, to help make sense of and be okay with the idea of death. To help give some explanation to that which cannot easily be understood.
I slowly walk a portion of the grounds. There is a sense, a notion, a perceptive feeling that this ground is sacred. Not in a spooky way, but in a welcoming, comforting way. All of the gently laid, supportive, color-adding flowers guarding and keeping each stone and plot company stare curiously at me. All at once, they whispered to me in unison, “Death is okay. It is certain. It is natural. It does not have to be a thing feared. But it is certainly not a thing to be ignored.” A few drops from dew — or more likely, from the morning sprinklers’ automatic routine — had not yet burned off. As I walked among and disturbed them, they jumped from the blades of grass they were resting on, onto my exposed, sandal-wearing feet. These fresh, cold, invigorating drops splashed my mind’s eye and brought me back around to remember that before death, there is life.
There is no seat or bench anywhere to be found. Odd, a place requiring stillness, and commanding silence, forcing any entrant to maintain effort and movement. This makes it difficult to settle adequately or appropriately into the local atmosphere. So I wander. I read. I wonder,
“Do we bury the dead like we bury treasure?”
I read. I ponder,
“Do we prepare for death like we prepare for life?”
I wander. To wander among the dead is a sobering act. I keep repeating to myself, “…the death of a thing…the death of a thing.” This line has been surfing my brainwaves since Wednesday.
Wednesday was Independence Day, a day when I experienced “the death of a thing.” I suppose death in its own rite is a type of freedom, so it would be metaphorically appropriate for the sake of story, for both the death and freedom of a thing to occur on Independence Day.
This morning motif, “the death of a thing…” has been just waiting and loitering…needing to find some supportive prose somewhere, to bring it home to some conclusion. I mean, death is a conclusion in and of itself. But some conclusion about death needs to be made or discerned. Or maybe just remembered.
“The death of a thing.”
Berthoud, CO ¦¦ July 7, 2018
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