Okay, so maybe this letter is a bit obvious, since my theme for the month of April is cemeteries. So consider this a meta post.
Why cemeteries? When I was a kid, I didn’t like visiting cemeteries. I was keenly aware of what lay beneath my feet. I used to walk wide swaths around graves so as not to step on them. Cemeteries made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to confront the truth that my loved ones would die someday. Or that I would.
I avoided cemeteries until the summer of 2013, when I drove past one on a misty July morning and got an idea for a new novel. (More on that in an upcoming post.) Then I started visiting cemeteries to get a sense of setting. What they gave me in return was time and space to reflect on mortality, on my discomfort with death, on what I wanted to do and explore before my life was done.
I haven’t made peace with death, by the way. I want to get to that place, where I can accept the fact that my life will end, and to do so with peace. Perhaps it involves some letting go. And some more time in cemeteries, listening to the lessons of those who have gone before.
I took one of my sons with me on a cemetery walk. At four, he had a rudimentary sense of death. He grasped somehow that the dead were buried beneath our feet. I watched as he stepped carefully around each plot, just as I had done so many years ago. I wondered what he made of it. As I was strapping him into his carseat later, he gave me his gift of wisdom: “The dead are beneath us, holding us up.” He may have meant it literally – and it is true in a literal sense – but there is wisdom there. I hope I can live into it.