To Cry For the Dead
There's a cemetery not far from where I live. Sometimes my sister and I go there. There's a girl buried there who died in a fire not long after she was married. And there's a baby with no name.
I hadn't been there in a long while. Many years in fact. But we went back.
In a tumbling life full of changes and hardships, it's strange how it seemed like we were going back to make peace. Back to where the dead are laid. It seems like a strange place to find peace. Some are laid in the earth in turmoil and anger. Some in fearful regret. Some in sorrow gouging a hole in the hearts left behind.
There are Civil War Veterans in this graveyard on the prairie. WWI veterans. WWII veterans. People who've lived their full life and have come to the end. Some who had only a few minutes.
As I pass their graves I am struck by how long this place on the hill has been here, how much it has seen, how much time and life it carries beneath the grasses. Unfamiliar as their names are, something hard cracks inside me. I rush to hide tears, but I wish for the relief of them, the feel of them pouring down my skin.
I've walked graveyards and cemeteries before. I've stood by the grave of my grandpa. But it's here on a hill in the Great Plains, shadowed by cedars and lilac bushes, it's here I find the limit to what I can bear. It's here where all things I've seemed to have lost come back to me. These graves, this earth, they have seen the end. And they show me what beginnings look like. These people I don't even know, lives I've never seen, or watched as they have lived.
I've thought this before, but never thought it wise enough to say aloud. But after that day at the cemetery I know this for sure . . .
It is good and it is right to cry for the dead, the unknown. It is good to remember them with tears. Because they, too, have made a way in a dark and unknown world, and have lived a hundred thousand days and more. They have been a part of this world, its shaping and its making. They have seen wars and floods and death, and have beaten out a raw, timeless existence, and in this we are kinsmen, in more than flesh and blood. And it is good to dry these tears on the backs of determined, stronger hands, and to go and live another day.