I got lost in a cemetery the other day. I didn’t mean to go in there, but I was early for a lunch date and I saw the sign as I drove by. I know that’s where she is, so I stopped.
I parked and wandered around, not having any idea where to look. The sunshine was lovely. Some of the flowers left by grave sites danced in the breeze.
So many markers. So many names. It didn’t feel lonely at all.
Are you scared to die? I’ve always been petrified of it. Scared to die before I get to do what I need to do in my time on this Earth. But walking around the cemetery I breathed a little easier. These people are all still here. They didn’t cease to exist; the live on in another way, amid the trees and the sunshine. It brought me peace somehow, being there.
Everywhere I looked I could tell that people were here. Are here. Signs of life and love were all around me and it felt okay. Not scary, but quite lovely.
I wandered around only half looking for the familiar name, quickly realizing how very big the park was and how entirely unlikely it was that I would just come across it. Time was ticking and I knew I’d have to come back later, so for a bit I just walked.
There were signs of sadness. Hope? Both.
I could see the playground through the trees and thought what a nice thing it was to have in a cemetery. But as I got closer I realized what was there.
The graves were covered in flowers and toys and stuffed animals. Some of the dates conveyed lives of mere weeks or months; some listed a single date.
I was struck by just how much stuff had been left there. So much love. So much colour. There were balloons and plants and pinwheels and in the breeze they all moved. Alive. Present.
(Would I be strong enough to put a Snoopy welcome banner on my child’s grave? I’m not sure.)
I paused, sunglasses hiding my tears, but soon I had to leave. I hadn’t found what I was looking for, but I would be back.
I went back after my work lunch and happened upon the administration building. I went in and they very helpfully gave me not only a site number but a map, the path highlighted in pink, and a photo of the gravestone so I knew what to look for. I got back in my car and drove down, across, and over to the other end of the cemetery. I followed the pink line around a looping road and parked.
Everything felt different that time. I knew where to go, knew what I’d find. Less impromptu and more deliberate, the visit felt more solemn. Especially having realized there would be two names I’d recognize.
And there they were.
I hadn’t visited my Nana’s grave in the 20 years since her funeral. Maybe once? Maybe not. And I hadn’t been in the nearly two years we’ve lived here, for no real reason other than I didn’t know how to find it. Or maybe I wasn’t ready. 20 years and the tears still prick.
I didn’t go to my cousin’s funeral. I was very pregnant with Connor and we didn’t live here then and it was all rather sudden and shocking. But there she was. I remember her laugh.
I like that they’re together.
Am I still less scared to die? I’m not sure. It feels more final when the names are ones you know. But when I feel my chest tighten and my breath restrict I will think of all those flowers dancing in the sun and remember that life goes on for both the living and the dead. Life goes on.