Short Story of an afternoon at the graveyard and the thoughts on the visit.
The dark grey tombstones are neatly placed in rows all on the earth in this tiny corner of the world. Well, yes, you see—the corner is small. However, the cemetery is rather vast. It’s all about perspective. I hold up this phone and to me it’s wonderful. If I pull it back, let you look at it, then it’s just another phone of no real importance to you. It doesn’t have a cover anymore. It broke and it has no protection any longer. Man made things will always break. Strange though, is the human man-made? It always breaks in one way or another. That’s why I’m here, you see. The graveyard. Under my feet there are many of those who have passed on to the afterlife. A few of have chosen to be placed in a mausoleum. Of course, the lovely town I live in isn’t all about respecting other people. The mausoleums were broken into a while back and you can see the broken stone where grave robbers have desecrated holy ground.
I reckon nothing is truly sacred in this strange life. Life can be beautiful but it’s also quite repulsive at times. It can be. People have this strange knack of forgetting things that they promise. How they say that they will never take their loved ones for granted. I remember. The first time I was brought to this wonderful place for a cause was when I was but a child of nine. My grandfather had passed on and we had to attend the funeral. I didn’t take that very well at all. You see, he was the only real grandfather I had. I did have another but he was more of a pseudo grandfather. He was more involved in making sure I was his slave in a way. Take off his shoes, take off his socks, clip his toenails, but after it’s done I better not ask for a glass of milk. He was a nice man. If by nice you mean that he was rotten to the very core of his soul. Shan’t speak ill of the dead but it isn’t really–it’s the truth. If the truth is harsh, well, he should have made a better truth.
The grandfather that I loved was gone and I screamed at the top of my lungs. I did not understand death completely but what I knew of it, at that time, was I’d never see him again. I would never be able to play cowboys and Indians. I always was the Indian and I always captured him. A smile grows across my face as I place my cell phone back into my pocket, remembering that. I remember the good things, the happy things from so long ago. It cancels out most of the bad. The people you love.
As I step away from my car, I hit the button on the lock. I know there isn’t anyone that’s going to break in it that’s already here but you can never tell about this town. Too many shifty eyes and too many people that I really can’t trust. I still have a select few but they are a rarity. The ones that I could are under the earth, sleeping the deep sleep. I miss them terribly.
The next death I experienced is the first stop I make to pay my respects. A wonderful aunt, Debbie, who was smart and very encouraging. I can’t stand drunk drives. Drink if you must but keep your stupid ass at home is what I always thought. She didn’t deserve that death. I could tell by the way my great aunt, her name was Thelma, had sat me down that someone had died. I asked her if it was Debbie before she even started. She asked how I knew that.
I listen. I observe. I take people in and make my assessment based on that. They spoke of my two young cousins and my other aunt, but they never said anything of her. Reasonable deduction. I didn’t scream over her death. I was quiet. I sat somewhere to be alone and I just thought a lot of things. I was ten this time. I bow my head and kiss my fingertips as I rest them on her tombstone. I miss her. She was remarkable. I love her.
I turn my heel and step to the next one I’ve lost. My grandmother, my aunt’s mother, and the most intelligent and hardworking woman. I remember so very much about her and have often wondered why she married the jackass. I was young but I remember that was how she referred to him. The jackass. Rightfully named. In any case, I asked her once when she wanted to die. I was a child at the time and had already seen these two people I loved so much pass away. She said when she couldn’t take care of herself any longer. I was eleven this time and she didn’t want to stay in the hospital. I sat by her side and held her hand. I watched her and wanted to take care of her. I wanted to take away her cancer and make it where I’d never lose her. I did not get my wish and she waited, I think, down deep in my heart of hearts to surrender to the deep sleep the day after my Daddy’s birthday. I also believe she waited until I was gone. My Daddy (I will always call him Daddy no matter my age), mom, brother, and I went back to our house for clothes. When we left, that was when she passed away in the afternoon. It rained and stormed that day. It was at that moment I realized that a common factor was rain. I wonder if it’s them crying because my heart and theirs are breaking.
I didn’t scream but I didn’t keep it in this time either. I went to my parents’ car and shut myself away from everyone else. I cried alone. I wondered why in a course of three years, three people I loved with all my heart had passed away. I couldn’t really grasp the idea. I wasn’t even a teenager yet. I put my fingers to my lips and kiss my Granny’s tombstone. I miss her. I love her.
With a deep breath, I turn to walk down the hill. The next person who passed away and, if I could have, I would have gladly taken her place. I often wished it’d had been me to go instead. She was special. She was everything to me and I still think of her constantly. Standing in front of the tombstone, I see the date and that day’s events play in my mind like a movie. I remember it all. Every step, what I wore, how I felt, and the utter confusion of what was going on. Again, cancer was the culprit.
The wind blows and knocks my long hair across my eyes. I pull it behind my ear and this time, I don’t stay standing. I fall to my knees and touch the ground. Her soul isn’t under there, I know this. I’m logical, most of the time. I have my moments. Under the ground is a metallic pink casket with my mother inside. Her body in any case. I really wish that it was all just a bad dream. It didn’t happen in quick succession for this death to happen. It took three years for the cancer to take her but I remember letting all previous emotions happen right after the other. I froze, I screamed, I cried, and then I withdrew.
I talk to the stone like she can actually hear me. I know it’s for naught but I still need to talk to her. I still miss her. No, it’s not a prayer. It’s me talking to my mother. It’s me wanting her back and me wanting to see her smile again. I’d give my right arm or any arm or any damned limb to make all this not real. It’s real though. And I still, as an adult, cry just like a child.
The sky is bright blue and the clouds are dancing across it. You have to really look to see it. They do dance. I love God and I believe in Him. I merely question why all this death and taking away the people that I truly loved. The people that helped keep my sanity. It molded me into a deliberation, so long ago, that I shouldn’t love. It led me to the conclusion that whatever or whomever I loved, this is what their fate was. To be placed in a casket and lowered into the ground for all eternity. I believed that for a very long time. Slowly, I’m starting to love again. I don’t really think I ever stopped but I was not as vocal about it. I suppose it made me seem a bit odd to my peers growing up.
My eyes look at her name again and I wonder if she’d be proud at what I’ve become. Does she even know what I’ve become? Do I even know? I can’t tell you for sure. I’m what they call a “work in progress”. I do things that make people question me. Sometimes, I get distracted or I lose myself. I’m good at that. Losing myself inside my own mind. I suppose it makes me seem a bit strange. I’m allowing myself to get closer to people. It’s hard sometimes because I fear that some may pity me.
That happened once. A friend out of pity. The deaths I’ve dealt with, you see, I don’t desire pity for that. It’s not what I want in at all. Their pain and suffering from their cancers, car wrecks, and heart conditions should not be a reason to pity me. I mourn their loss.
I want people to do something entirely different. I want them to keep their word.
I get up from my knees and start over to my aunt and uncles that died. My mother’s siblings. They didn’t make it past a year, if that. They died as infants. She was the youngest. I should be grateful I at last got to know her for as long as I did. She was a premature infant and, if she had followed along with the chain of events, I wouldn’t even be writing this or experienced any of it. Strange how things work themselves out sometimes.
Over the hill, my eyes fall on a drum. The drum was placed there, from what I have been told, because a young boy passed away from some reason and they put a drum on his gravesite. The town, though, is riddled with vagrants. The boy’s music sheets were placed in the drum. They bashed it and stole them. I remember that every time I come here and wish that people would respect the dead. I don’t know all of the people that are surrounding me. I respect them. They, whether good or bad in their life, had to have been special to someone. Someone mourns them just as I do all the loved ones I’ve come to visit for a little while. Even the other grandfather, who was a bit of a jerk, is missed by someone. I hope he made someone’s life happy. Every life is important.
My boots clank on the paved road back to my car and I think to myself how many times when a person goes to a funeral, they always say that they won’t take others for granted. The insane thing, or sad, is that within a month they go back on that vow. They forget that they even made that promise until the time comes they have to go to another funeral. We let the people we love wander about through this life and never really show them every day how much they mean to us. I’ve seen it. I observe people. I assess them that way.
I shake my head in wonder as I take my key out of my pocket and check my phone. The one man that has always shown me that he doesn’t take me for granted. My Daddy. He calls me constantly. No matter when or where. Sometimes, I don’t get the chance to answer for some reason or another. I love him. I adore him. He talks a lot. He spends hours talking to me–literally–hours. I wouldn’t trade those hours for anything. There isn’t anything more important because he is my Daddy and one day, I’ll come here. I’ll look down the hill and kneel at his grave and I’ll wish to God I could hear his voice. I will crave a hug. I will want to talk to him for six straight hours. I dread that day. I’m terrified of that day. Whatever any one can say about my Daddy, the day he stops talking—that’s the day you start worrying.