I pulled him along, gleefully running towards the crumbling walls. I just knew he’d love this place, the beauty of the works of art and such, like I did. How could he not?
He liked to pretend otherwise. He liked to pretend that it was an effort and a chore to follow along. His feet, he pretended. Weighed a thousand pounds and the walk was at least a thousand miles on top of a thousand miles he had already walked.
When we hit the walls, more or less just tumbled down stones, he told me that “you North Americans are so odd, coming to these old places, sacred places of rest just for an outing.” His deep blue eyes which normally held the sparkle of joy and something mischievous seemed solemn and a little sad.
“Come on now, you’ll see. The headstones are stunning and they don’t make them like that any more.” I tugged at his hand, suddenly realizing that his pretend reluctance had in fact become real reluctance.
I knew I wasn’t the only person who found these old headstones to be works of art. There were people who did tracing of these as if it save what was left before they weathered away to the point of not being able to read the words.
I didn’t do tracings, just the odd photograph here or there. This cemetery had always been a wonderful place to me. There was a sense of tranquility and being part of a bigger picture when I walked among the stones. I had always been respectful of where I walked, never sat on a headstone or anything such as that. It was here that I felt most connected to a much larger, cyclical thing called life. The ebbs and flows of humanity as areas populated and depopulated,as fashion and culture changed and thus what humans did to celebrate life based on those changes also morphed.
“I thought, for a man who had seen so many Troubles, this would be nothing for you,” I tossed over my shoulder, determined to enjoy my outing even if he refused to step on foot inside those crumbling walls.
He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and said, “Lass, you don’t know the half of what I’ve seen and known. I’ve no need to visit upon death for soon enough death will visit upon me herself. I’ll wait for ye here so I will.” If he was a girl he probably would have tossed his head, but as it was, his accent, and not the “posh” side of it, had come out thick and strong.
So I ventured on my own, enjoying the sunlight as it was dappled through the trees and leaves. The breeze was warm and welcoming and I wondered if death was this peaceful place, this place we all went to on our own. Did we see those who walk among our names after we are gone? Does it matter if our names remain strongly etched when we cease to be remembered as loved ones find their memories going fuzzy and then gone?
I was gone for over an hour, taking time walking through the stones, trying to make out names and dates and wondering who those people were. What would they make of this world, or these changes?
When I came back around to where I had left him, he was talking to an elderly man. Rather the elderly man was giving him the history of the area. I was struck be the fact that there would always be someone to fill in parts of the gaps for us, but very few could explain the people from days gone by.
As we made our way silently back towards I couldn’t help but notice that there was a divide between us that couldn’t easily be crossed. He kept the idea of death at the barred door where as I accepted it was a fact of life and in some ways was freeing. When he got in the car he finally spoke, breaking the chain of my thoughts. “I’ve seen ones like those before. And to be sure they are pieces of art, masterfully carved out, but they are the representation of people who have gone on to rest. To break that rest is wrong.”
I’ve gone to cemeteries since then, not often with him. To me they are that blurred area where death and life overlap in a type of haze. There is something sacred and silent in these places, but there is also comfort and warmth. It depends on how you look at it and what you seek when you go through.