Every year for as long as I can remember I have made the trek to the cemetery. It was the annual honoring (cleaning) of the graves. My father’s family is buried there along with my sister. As a child, I wouldn’t help much. I would check out the graves and calculate the ages and feel sad for the smaller graves of children and babies that had only been days old. It was like a spring time project that we went to each year. As I grew older though I helped clean. Trim the grass, rake it up, sweep it off the headstones and marble slabs and then wash the dirt off. We visit with other families that had come out to do the same. The next day which would be Sunday, there would be church, lunch in town and then a service at the cemetery. The priest would go around and bless each grave that was requested.
Things started to change when my mother passed and later as my dad got older. He would call and he would bring all the stuff and I would help him. As time went on and he had moved into town then I started packing up the truck with my supplies. I’d bring the kids. We would have a visit with grandpa.
My dad recently turned 85. This year he called to remind me to go out and clean the graves. He would not be coming to help which is understandable. My daughter has a sport injury and I left the other daughter home to help her out. I took my son with me. I felt a little sad to sense the tradition of it is well behind us. My son asked me questions on all the family members buried there. He has never met any of them but the one uncle was gone when Bubby was little. Then that conversation opened up to more questions…
Bubby: Who were the first people on earth?
Me: They say Adam and Eve.
Bubby: Who named them?
Me: I guess God did. I don’t remember. I wasn’t born.
Bubby: Does it hurt to die?
Me: I think if it hurt it stops as soon as you die.
Bubby: Why do they burn the bodies? (Cremation) Doesn’t that hurt?
Me: No, because they are dead.
Bubby: So, there bodies are in the boxes?
Me: Yes but we call them caskets.
Bubby: I don’t get all of this. What happens to us?
Up until this point I was being vague and he was getting frustrated with that so I got more descriptive.
Me: We each have a little ball of energy inside of us which they call the soul. The soul is a part of God and is how we are connected to one another. That soul is inside of us until we die. Then it leaves the body. My mother is gone and I still feel connected with her. I can’t see her, but I know she is there.
Bubby: And when someone dies they can see the people that died before them?
Me: Yes. I’ll die first then when you get old and die and you’ll see me again. You’ll say to me, “Hey momma.” And, I’ll be there waiting for you.
The conversation went on. He is such an interesting soul. I feel like it is best to be honest and say what I feel. He responds best to that. If I tell a story from the bible he wants to punch every hole into it. But, if I tell him something I feel right in saying he is with me.
We finished up and as promised I got him a small slushie. It was hot out and he had worked hard. We were off to get groceries and pick up a fidget spinner because he thinks this is the coolest thing ever. How did we go from video games to a piece of plastic that spins around?
A couple years ago I was cleaning and my aunt’s, also my godmother, headstone. It is an upright one. My aunt has been gone since 1985. This headstone has been there for 30 years. My father was there. So, I was cleaning and on an angle to the headstone and suddenly the headstone tipped over leaning on the back of my arm pinning my wrist because my hand curled under and I couldn’t lift it. My father helped me get it off my arm. My arm was severely bruised but nothing else was wrong. My dad said that we might have to get that fixed. A couple days later he had gone out there and said that he had tried to move it and said it wouldn’t budge. I was flabbergasted. My aunt had died when I was 9. She was a nice woman. Her son always tells me that she hoped he would marry a nice girl like me. I don’t have a lot of memories but I always was excited to see her. So, being this person who believes that spirit is trying to connect I wondered why a headstone fell on my arm and didn’t injure me, but then couldn’t be moved later was all about.
I was just on the beginning of my journey believing that the energy around me was speaking to me. The headstone falling on my arm was something that I was not going to forget. It is years later and I remember. And yes, it could have been purely coincidence, but there was something about it being my aunt’s headstone. I hadn’t thought of her in a long time, but in that moment and for a long time after she was in my mind. I have spoken more to her children in these last few years then ever before. I haven’t even told them about the headstone incident. I have focused instead on mediating and being able to focus on the subtle signs and not have a piece of granite fall on me to get my attention.
My medium friend reminded me that my aunt did connect with her in and around that time the headstone fell. My aunts message was simple, “thank you.” Maybe she said it because I came year after year and prayed for her and always hoping she has peace. I think that my aunt was saying as well, “pay attention.” I mean, don’t pay attention and next time it will be a bigger sign. Listen for the subtle stuff as well.
I hope to remind my own children about their family and where they came from. I guess if I keep talking about people they never met that their memory won’t completely fade away. Isn’t that what we hope for ourselves? We hope that our time on earth means something. But, one other way to do that is to be a person that serves your life purpose here on earth. That would also mean that you are of service. Maybe it isn’t you they remember, but the way you carried your self in your life is a wonderful example for them to carry on in their own.
So, I will continue to visit the cemetery each year in an act of honor and remembrance. I hope that my children will remember the stories and will stop in once in awhile to share it with their children as well. But, my connection with my family goes well beyond that grassy cemetery along side a gravel road. I want to teach my children that the memories are not only spoken about where their body lies but in all aspects of their life. I held my mother’s stories silent for a long time and refused to share. Over time I have shared more and more standing in my own home when something pops up in my mind. We must remember our dead not only at the time of their death but how they lived.