Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Will Follow You Into the Dark

I went for a drive yesterday. A car was tailing me more closely than I liked, so on an impulse, I swerved into a cemetery drive. (As an aside, my music was on shuffle and the song that was playing was "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," which seemed oddly appropriate.)

Earlier in the day, I had the not wholly original thought that writing only poetry might reinforce one's isolation and self-absorption. Poetry is a summoning of beauty or truth. It requires quiet contemplation and space to grow. Fiction, on the other hand, forces the writer into the heads of other people. Fiction is, by necessity, a reaching out.

Cemeteries are that way, too. The people there are real. Or they were real. Now they're something in between. "Beyond the sunset," as so many of the inscriptions put it.

I like visiting cemeteries. Particularly when I'm feeling tired of myself. Considering other people's lives--wondering who they were and whom they loved--isn't so much sad as it is engaging and oddly uplifting. (Except when I run across a child's grave. Damn.)

I like reading the names. I like the specificity of the dates of birth and death, bookends to a lifetime filled with stories. I like seeing the remembrances left, graveside, from those committed to loving in death as well as they did in life. Usually, these consist of flowers. Maybe a flag or figurine. Even wind chimes, on occasion.

But this small, rural cemetery was something else.

The graves here were positively bustling with remembrances.

Take a look:

Solar lights, for the darkest nights. 

This child lived for two months. 
17 years later, she's still missed.

I bet this lady liked dolphins.

She must have been a gardener. 
Cardinals and butterflies and feasts of flowers.

This one made me smile.
A farmer, you think? 

Fresh, but not too fresh. 
Dead flowers. Well-worn hat. Sad.

The first gravestone inscription to ever make me laugh.
The front reads:
"Here lies atheist Bob Donohoe. 
All dressed up and no place to go.
And his ever loving wife

The back says:
"Rest in peace Mom and Dad.
We know you are together in Heaven.
Well, this should be interesting."

How can any poet beat that?

I don't want to be buried. I want to be cremated and grow back as a tree, because dammit, I am a poet and an atheist (like Bob here) and I want something of myself to endure after I'm gone. But there is something deeply touching in how committed these mourners are to honoring (and maybe comforting?) their dead. Ultimately, it's for themselves, I suppose. A tangible releasing of the love that no longer has a place to call home.

I could feel it pulsing here. 


Charles Gramlich said...

I have often enjoyed visiting cemeteries too. Great pics and it's wonderful to see how loving humans can be.

I never thought about the poets versus fiction writers dichotomy in the way you put it but It makes good sense.

Sarah Hina said...

Charles, I'm glad you agree. I think I need to mix the two forms up more. Exercise different muscles.

I liked writing this post. Felt more like the old days of blogging, which is also a medium built for reaching out.

Stephen Parrish said...

I love the atheist one.

Sarah Hina said...

Figures, you godless heathen.

Dr. kold_kadavr_flatliner, MD, the Roamin' Cat said...

Because I was an actual NDE and because I’m not from earth, lemme share with you what I actually know Seventh-Heaven's gonna be like for us: meet this ultra-bombastic, ex-mortal-Upstairs for the most-extra-groovyNblatant, pleasure-beyond-measure, Ultra-Yummy-Reality-Addiction in the Great Beyond for a BIG-ol, kick-ass, party-hardy, eternal-warp-drive you DO NOT wanna miss the smmmokin’-hot-deal. YES! For God, anything and everything and more! is possible!! Cya soon.

the walking man said...

I never have a reason to visit cemeteries. No one in my family for the past 3 generations is in one we know of. The medical school takes the cadaver and ya best say your good byes then because that's the last you hear.

Too many spirits wandering around anyway and lord they do like to talk.

Aniket Thakkar said...

Bob Donohoe seems like a good man, who raised a good family.

I've never visited a cemetery, in my life either. Partly because, most Indians go for cremation, and there are so few cemeteries out here.

When I see tombstones, I see a lot of untold (and some seemingly unfinished) tales too.

I would just like to say, for future reference, if you feel someone is tailing you, driving towards a cemetery is not the brightest of ideas. :)

Sarah Hina said...

Mark, having been a medical student, I know first-hand what a gift those donations are.

I don't know what I get out of cemetery hopping, exactly. Maybe a kind of un-lonely solitude.

Aniket, you made me laugh. So you're almost forgiven for the frog comment.

Bob Donohoe deserves a biography. I bet it'd be interesting.