*The Death Writer is a blogger and a friend of mine who specializes is writing about, well, death.*
Dear Death Writer,
I am not sure why I thought a trip to the cemetery would be so spiritual, so innerly motivating. I suppose I thought we would be there longer, have flowers and stones, perhaps tell a story or two. Instead we saw the graves and left.
My parents and I drove out there and met my uncle who I hadn’t seen in about twelve years since my grandmother’s funeral. My dad hadn’t seen him for around eight years. Somehow their parents’ gravesite was the perfect uniting ground.
I did notice that the tree was gone. Back at my grandmother’s funeral we had mentioned how she would have liked that spot because it was so close to the tree with its large branches reaching over everyone. Close enough for some shade on a hot day. It’s gone now. In its place is a dip in the ground, some disembodied roots at the edges and a couple of concrete cylinders with some sort of engraving on them. The roots made me think the tree was torn out during one of the tornado-like storms recently run through the city, but the cement made my mom believe they were digging something up. Digging what?
The Jewish section of the cemetery is small and none of the gravestones are very fancy. Its tradition to put a rock or stone on the marker to show that somebody had been there, but we forgot to bring some along. Just across the path you can see Muslim graves. I’ll let any symbolism there speak for itself. We had to get into our car and drive to find my great-grandmother. She was born Christian and wanted to be buried with her sister. I never understood separating religions in the graveyard. It’s all the same earth we sink into in the end, isn’t it?
My great-great aunt passed away in the 1960’s and was buried in the Christian section of the cemetery. After my great-grandmother died when I was three years old, her cremated remains were put in the same spot and a new headstone was made. I asked my parents if the two sisters had planned it that way, to be buried together. It was my great grandmother’s sole decision, her sister had no idea. That was when I got the willies. Sisters or not, close or not, how do you make the decision to disrupt somebody’s grave without having their permission in advance? Regardless, it always takes a decent amount of scavenging to find them. They aren’t surrounded by any other family and they aren’t near any significant landmarks.
And that was it. We left for an early dinner at some barbecue joint that had been featured on TV and happened to have a portobella sandwich on the menu.
There was no tingle down my spine, no feeling of connecting with the past or some other plane of being. There wasn’t even a stone to show I had been there.
I’ve been thinking a lot about life in the past few days since the visit. The lives of the deceased, the lives of the past. I’ve been thinking about celebrating lives, how times change, how close we get to death every day. But mostly life. The way I learned about the mourning process in religious school is that we don’t mourn somebody’s death, but we celebrate his or her life. That has stuck with me more than nearly any other lesson on my religion.
And so I will leave you with that. Let us all go forth and celebrate life.