Easter, I had my trunk full of silk flowers of all kinds of bright colors. Personally, I love fresh flowers, but over the years Iíve found out that the best and most lasting are silks, like it or not. I traveled the ninety-five miles to the cemetery where my loved ones are buried, on the way to my daughterís family. It was a perfect morning; one on which I could envision the verses from the Bible, which say that we will meet our Lord in the air, not preceding our loved ones who sleep in the Lord. In other years I would go expectantly on that occasion, thinking it the most appropriate time for such an event. After many disappointments, I finally settled on glancing up to heaven furtively, imagining the distant sound of the trump and, with a rueful smile, bend down to pour a little oil on the marker and refresh itís dull surface. I arranged the flowers with expert hands, loosening the matted leaves, rolling them over my finger, struggling to remove the ugly, white, plastic tag. There they were, in all their glory, silk spring flowers joining the hundreds that were already springing up all over the cemetery.
I got up from squatting, feeling the pinch in my back and knees, and felt my age more than usual. As so many times before, I thought of my momís life, but this time there was a slight difference. I had undergone a catharsis from the first visit, years ago when I ranted and raved at her grave for all the wrongs I held against her. She had kept me close with guilt and shame, never teaching me to fly, just taking what I felt, all my energy and giving so little in return. I felt that from my birth she had groomed me to be her personal valet, placing herself first in my life, above my own family, having me at her every beck and call to satisfy her whims, especially after Dad died.
After her death I spent years, on my visits to her grave, talking it out, wishing we could both rest from our struggle. I would always leave with red-rimmed eyes, unreconciled. I prayed and tried to break down the seemingly impenetrable wall, but in itís own time forgiveness came, first for her and finally for me.
Once I felt no barrier, the good memories surfaced and my visits became joyful occasions. I felt the deep mother and child connection once again, love that is not diminished by death. My dad, though preceding her, lays beside her; with him all things were the same from the day he passed on; I always missed him, no more and no less. This Easter was different. In getting up slowly, I happen to look at the small spot where they lay, and then, when I looked out over the whole, flower-filled cemetery, I felt an overwhelming sensation come over me.
It was the sum of their life, as I had known it from birth, that passed instantly over me. Their lives were to me a tremendous event in history. The horrible memories they had lived through and, gloriously survived, of two major wars, the death of a young child, sicknesses and, becoming emigrants and starting from scratch at an advanced age. I thought of their successes and devastating failures, unlike most that I have witnessed in people I have met and known.
And all of this, neatly packaged in a three by six foot plot of ground, overgrown with grass.
I thought of the heartaches and loneliness, especially my momís. In her later years, on my surprise visits I would find her crying or just having finished, by the look of her eyes. I never understood...how could I, then? Iíve arrived, coming through much life myself now, knowing widowhood as she had, and, the loss of a child... still, my life does not come close to the fullness of joy and pain that she and Dad experienced.
I looked out over all those graves that hid generations of stories like those of my own parents, that someday would hold mine when I will be laid silently beside my husband and my young child, and maybe someone will walk past us and entertain a thought like mine and wonder as they pass and see the writing on of our epitaphs. It is the Shepherdís Psalm broken up over three narrow graves.
Will my children think of my life with wonder, as I am privileged to think of my mother's life? I will carry on, writing the story of life, even as she wrote hers. On that day, I will lay it down in that grassy plot, my chapter finished... waiting till the final chapters are written and the book is done.
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