Monday, September 5, 2016

LIFE IN THE CEMETERY

No, this is not a mystery or horror story, but a reflection on how life can flourish in a graveyard, rather like a volunteer flower in a vacant lot. Friends have often commented on how nicely kept the cemetery is where my husband is buried, and until the watering restrictions imposed after the drought had deepened, it was a green and peaceful place.  It is somewhat less green but is still peaceful and most of the graves are marked with flowers or plants, flags and statues, and even balloons at times.  Wind chimes sing whenever there is a breeze that swings the branches where they hang.

I suppose there is one mystery about the cemetery.  When you first drive in, you see a sign advising that there is video surveillance and that taking things from the graves is a crime.  When my father was first buried there, I bought an expensive camellia in a lovely blue flowerpot to place on his grave, since he had always called my mother "The Lady of the Camellias."  Soon afterwards, the camellia disappeared.  When I went to the cemetery office, I asked about it, and they said I could check behind the equipment garage and see if my pot was there.  It was, minus the camellia, so I took it with me and bought another less expensive camellia and put it back on the grave.  A few weeks later, both the camellia and the pot were both gone.

I asked at the office, unable to believe that someone would really steal things from a cemetery, and they told me that they couldn't really watch all the time, since people were in and out as long as the cemetery was open.  I forgot to ask about the video surveillance.

When my husband was buried there, I bought a wooden planter with some succulents and put a couple of other pots on the grave. First one of them disappeared, and then the second.  Recently, I noticed that the succulents were starting to burst out of the wooden planter in a most unsightly way, and I felt very discouraged about going to the grave.

As my birthday was approaching, my daughters who were going to be here asked me what I'd like to do for my birthday, and I told them what I'd like to do would be go to the nursery, buy some new, heavier planters and new plants for their father's grave.  So that's what we did.  The nursery we went to has an elaborate outdoor railroad set up which our children and now our grandchildren have always enjoyed watching.  Elizabeth, the oldest daughter, watched the nine grandchildren frolicking about the nursery in the area of the trains, and Mary, the second, went with me to help me pick out the planters and their future inhabitants.  I had measured the gravestone before, so we were able to find planters that would fit around the outside of the stone, and we chose flowers that would go well together.

A few days later, a friend helped me arrange and plant the flowers, and my son helped me place them on the grave, since they were quite heavy with the soil and the plants in them.  They look quite beautiful there, and we scrubbed the gravestone so that the white letters, crosses and flowers look sparkling against the black granite.
Now I go up nearly every day, sweep off the pine needles and water the plants if needed.

After the first pot was taken, I had seen another woman by a grave a few rows below my husband's, and I asked her if she had ever had anything taken.  I believe she said she had, but that now she just gets inexpensive things for her husband's grave.  We chatted a while with an undercurrent of understanding--widows generally know just how deeply their losses run without having to elaborate.
I have seen her frequently, since she told me she is there every day, and today she was there when I was. We exchanged some reminiscences about our husbands and how they both loved to make lists. It was a beautiful day, with a fresh breeze at the top of the hill where we were talking, and I felt comforted to have a friend among the living there in the quiet home of those who have gone before us.

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