I’d like to preempt this by saying that I am not a person who dwells in morbid thoughts. I love life and the living, and I often go to noisy, crowded places to sit back and watch the world go by, connecting with a humanity so caught up in the mundane that its purpose and mortal presence is lost to all except to the observer. There is beauty around that speaks and images that disturb. These fuel my creativity. However, to feel most connected to understanding my inner self, the most human, powerful, and yet humbling experience for me is to go to the funeral.
This past year has been one of many funerals. Going to the funerals or the calling hours as it is done “back home,” sometimes means we have to do the right thing even when we don’t feel like it. What might be an inconvenience to me (because the funeral cuts into my busy work schedule) means the world to the other person who has suffered a loss because, in their moment of grief, as they turn to look back at the people present in the church, or as they see you pass respectfully before the coffin of their loved one, the most powerfully comforting experience for them is to see a church full of inconvenienced people such as I, who believe in going to the funeral. By the same token, I am renewed with the awareness of how precious every life on earth is and how much I am pulled by the need to do, more so than the need to be. My mortal years, like all who are privileged to breathe, are unknown and limited. Time is entrusted to me and the years lent are just that… lent to me.
Sometimes, I go to the cemetery. The cemetery need not be one where I have a connection to someone whose funeral I have attended, be it family or friend or acquaintance. I feel connected to all. I randomly walk over a carpet of well-maintained green grass reading the names and dates of those buried in the area. Some are short lived lives, others long and longer. There are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, the soldier, the doctor, the hero; all loving. It is easy to recognize the newly dead from those long buried. Theirs are the headstones that are rubbed and polished to a gleam. Many of them are too young, infants even. I take time to stop at each one to read their names and say a little prayer for those they’ve left behind in this world. And for those long buried and whose last day on this earth dates back decades into history, and time has diminished the strokes of polish on their headstone, I linger a little longer.
My first impression of cemeteries was not one of rolling hills carpeted with a soft spread of green, and trees with their magnificently outstretched branches. No; I come from places where cemeteries are tight narrow plots confined between buildings and church yards, with high tombstones. Statues of all shapes and sizes mark the graves of young and old casting long shadows in the twilight hour. These are cemeteries where the earth has moved and graves have shifted. One almost has to dance and skip from one marbled tomb to the other to walk through the graveyard.
Yet there is something that connects me to the world of the departed; a world behind what we see, feel and taste. In that connection, all human weakness of emotions seems to dissipate. I have no fears, no doubts and no resentments. All that exists is an implosive magnetic force of love powered by those on earth whose hearts beat with sorrow, joy, grief, loss, triumph …and by those who have departed and whose loves linger and float the atmosphere. A peace exists amid a silent kinship between souls centuries old and days young. It is comforting. The finest of people, the innocent, the guilty, the good, the rogue of rogues, the giver and the taker will all be buried within the boundaries of the cemeteries. But their worldly professions and adjectives that defined them do not matter. Here, I find an absence of all human emotions except an infinite love that roams through and in between the space. An inexplicable peace reigns. And I am released of all entitlement to this world.