I LOVE cemeteries! I always have. They don’t freak me out at all, unless it’s like 2am and I’m fourteen running amuck with my ballsy friend who wanted see if we could find anyone else who liked to hang out in the cemetery as much as we did…ahh adolescence…anyway…
There are many reasons I love the cemetery. I love the manicured grounds. I love the colorful flower arrangements. I love the gray stone and red brick. But mostly I love the words and dates engraved in the stone.
I grew up going to the cemetery on a regular basis because I had grandpas and a tia who were buried there. My abuelitas would cut roses fresh from their gardens and put them in mason jars with water. We would take them and put them on the graves of our loved ones. From a young age I felt a sense of family and history. I felt like going there was a way to show my love and respect. I’m pretty sure this why cemeteries a don’t freak me out.
As I got older I became fascinated with other tombstones outside of my family. I like trying to figure out who was related to who and how. I wonder what these people’s lives were like and I think of who is missing them. I love reading the names and the dates. From them I can see how long a wife was a widow before she got to see her husband again. I can see just how short a child’s life was on this earth. Every time I see an infant/child’s grave I instantly think of their mother and her grief. I wonder how those parents handled their grief. There is definitely a sense of sadness, but ironically I feel more alive when I am there. I feel a real sense of my mortality.
“Life is not measured by the number of
breaths we take, but by the moments that
take our breath away.”
When I am at a cemetery I think about my life and I recognize the gift that every breath really is. I think about how I am using my life and how I am nurturing my relationships. I am grateful for my faith in Christ and what his resurrection really means to me.
I believe that there is life after death. Not a life where you sit on a cloud and draw rainbows across the sky, but a life where we are with our loved ones, enjoying the relationships that we nurtured and cherished in this life. So when I read the death date, I see the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.
When my beloved Abuelita Tina died I experienced real grief for the first time in my life. But before she died I also had very sacred moments that confirmed to me that just as she had family holding her hand on this side of life, she also had loved ones waiting and welcoming her on the other side. Those same people are the people who I honored by visiting their graves as a child.
I still feel the loss of her. I miss her. In my mind I can hear her voice singing to Camden. I hear her talking to my girls in Spanish knowing full well they don’t understand a word she is saying. Someday she will see them and they will here her voice….but for now they know her because I keep her memory alive. It’s not that hard because I think of her often. I think she is around me more than I realize. In fact I think she was hanging out with us last weekend at my cousins baptism. I know she is not in that cold ground, just her body. Her spirit is very much alive and aware of me and my life. Just like all of those people who are represented by rows of stone.
Losing a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent….I can’t even imagine the grief that would follow an untimely death. I’d like to think that through that intense pain I would still feel the same way, I would still find peace. I have watched dear friends lose their parents at a young age, I was with a boyfriend at the hospital when he found out his mom was killed in a car accident. That moment still grips my heart. His pain was more than I could understand. We did not share the same faith so my words of comfort didn’t help him.
So having family pictures taken at a cemetery may not be for everyone, I understand that. But I saw the beauty in it and I made sure that we were respectful so I’d like to think that the spirits of those people were okay with it.