This graveyard was laid to rest in the early 1800s, and time has settled gracefully upon its ancient bones. Stones from the old quarry stand sentinel, grey guardians of the ancestors who rest eternally at their feet, immortal reminders of our mortal remains. From church to cliff, a tapestry of meadow grass cushions each careful footfall and softens each harsh reality. The founders of the town and the foundation of the church remain unmoved, disturbed by nothing but the cries of gulls and the rage of storms.
As a child I came here often with my grandfather. A generation apart, we came together in search of that elusive peace one finds only in the hushed memories of those long gone. Too young to understand the pain of those who mourn, I learnt from him a simpler truth: that where flowers were planted, they grew and were remembered; and where flowers were left in vases, they died and were forgotten. My grandmother’s grave, at the edge of the cliff, blossomed year round. She was never forgotten, my grandfather would say, because she wasn’t really dead.
“If she’s not dead, then who’s in the ground?” I would ask, and grandfather would chuckle and say: “Her bones, Sweetheart, just her bones.”
So we picnicked beside the riotous blooms, and sang and danced together when no one was around to disapprove and call us disrespectful.
“I’ve paid for this plot,” Grandfather would say with a wink, “and I can dance on my own grave if I want to.”
We would laugh, but the minister would frown, and walk away shaking his head and muttering.
When the afternoon sun gilded the gravestones, we would wend our way slowly back to the car. We never followed the carefully cared-for paths, but instead wandered through the wasteland of the forgotten, reading the inscriptions that spoke of their lives.
“It helps to keep them alive,” Grandfather would say.
“Alive like Grandma?” I would ask, and he would shrug ever so slightly.
“That I don’t know, Sweetheart; but the stones never lie.”
So we read their names and births and deaths, and the names of all the loved ones who had left them here in peace, and never returned.
“Is that the truth, Grandpa?” I would ask.
”Well,” he would say, tilting his head thoughtfully, “that’s about as close to the truth as we can get. But it could be a mistake, you know. People make mistakes.”
“What about this?” I would ask, running my hand lightly over the engraved scriptures.
“Now that,” he would say with a smile, “is the Truth.”
When Grandfather died, we buried him beside Grandma, and let her joyful garden run riot over his grave. The cross above his head is stone, roughly hewn and beautiful in its simplicity, deeply etched with his integrity. Standing beside it now, its shadow draped comfortingly across my shoulders, I watch my daughter dancing in the delicate light of spring.
“Mommy,” she says, pausing to look up at me. “How do you know your Grandpa is alive?”
“Because it says so right here,” I answer with a smile, my fingers reverently tracing the words I know by heart.
“What does it say?” she asks.
“It’s a quote from the Bible: ‘he who believes has everlasting life.’” *
She tilts her head thoughtfully, and then smiles my grandfather’s smile. “Now that,” she says, “is the Truth.”
Somewhere, Grandpa smiles.
*(John 6:47, NIV)
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