To Cry For the Dead
There's a cemetery not far from here. Sometimes my sister and I go there to walk among the dead, to read the names, to touch something forgotten, unknown to us. 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.
In a tumbling life full of changes and hardships, it's strange how it seemed we went back to make peace that day. Back to where the dead were laid. It was a strange place to look for peace. Some were 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 passed their graves I was struck by how long that place on the hill had been there, how much it had seen, how much time and life it carried beneath the grasses. Unfamiliar as their names were, something hard cracked inside me. I rushed to hide tears, but I wished for the relief of them, the feel of them letting go.
I'd walked graveyards and cemeteries before. I'd stood by the grave of my grandpa. But it's there on a hill in the Great Plains, shadowed by cedars and lilacs, I find the limit to what I can bear. It's there where all things lost come back to me. Those graves, this earth, they had seen the end. And they showed me what beginnings looked like, those people I didn’t know, lives I'd never seen.
I'd thought this before and never thought it wise enough to say aloud. But after that day at the cemetery I knew 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 this we are flesh and blood.
And it is good to dry these tears on the backs of determined, stronger hands, and live another day.