The Cemetery Off Eight Mile Road!
Tucked away amongst tall evergreen trees and lush green sword ferns, is an out of the way country cemetery. It has no name, just a small dirt parking area for about a dozen cars. I’m sure those resting here were born and raised in the area. This area is dotted with small farms, with people raising cattle, horses or crops. The dates on many headstones go back to the 1920’s. I would guess there aren’t more than 100 graves, scattered between oak trees here and there.
I had been coming to this place for about four months and when time permitted, I mowed the lawns. I kept the parking area trimmed, so it would show passerby’s that someone still cared. It would be nice to believe that those folks buried here also would feel they weren’t forgotten as well. There were three weathered wooden benches within the cemetery and I chose that day, to stop and to do some writing.
I have found this to be a wonderfully peaceful place to write and contemplate. Just an occasional car would pass by. I could hear it approaching long before I would look up and see them pass. On that particular morning, as I sat in my truck, finishing up a poem before I would start mowing the lawn, I looked up and saw a woman waiting by the gate. She was a strikingly beautiful woman in her 50’s, with radiant shoulder length red hair and deep green eyes.
She was wearing a blue chiffon dress. I didn’t see any other car nearby, so I assumed she had been dropped off by a friend or had walked down the road to get here. She had a warm, gentle, yet shy smile as she waved hi to me and I waved back. I sat my pad and pen on the truck seat and got out of my truck and walked up to the wrought iron gate as I said, “Good morning.” Gently she pushed one side of the gate open and I thanked her. “I didn’t expect to find anyone here today. My name is Raymond and I’m a writer.”
She told me her name was Faith and that she hadn’t been here long. As we both made small talk, walking up the hill, she asked me if someone here was a family member and I told her no. “I stop by now and then to keep the lawns looking nice and to write.” I said and she nodded. Fall was here and the leaves were falling one by one, caught in the golden rays of sunshine.
To me, they looked like angels descending from heaven. When we reached the bench I was walking towards, I stopped and sat down and offered her a seat as well. She politely smiled and shook her head no. “I won’t take up much more of your time Raymond, I know how important your work and writings are to you.” she said in a sad voice. Her comment caught me off guard and I sensed something in her voice that I couldn’t put my finger on.
“I often times stop at the gate, especially on this day.” she whispered and as I looked up, I saw a tear roll down her cheek. At that moment, she reached out her hand and offered it to me as she asked, “Would you walk with me for a few minutes, Raymond?” I replied, “Sure.” Hand in hand we walked past headstones of every shape and size, but none were new. In a few minutes, we reached a tall headstone in the shape of an angel.
I knew someone had gone to great time and detail, to make someone’s resting place a special one. Faith looked first at the angel and then turned and looked into my eyes. There were tears rolling down her cheeks as she looked down to the base of the headstone. As my eyes looked down too, I saw the name ‘Faith Anderson’ in large letters, followed by a small dedication from the one who loved her in life, and in death. It was dedicated by her husband David.
When she looked up into my eyes, a glow appeared around her as she sadly told me that this was where she was laid to rest. She was still holding my hand and I could feel the warmth of her skin. “For more years then I can recall, I’ve waited down at the gate, hoping that David would come to see me.” she said as she began to cry before taking a deep breath. ”He must have passed away too, he must have. He could never have stayed away.” she said and her tears flowed freely.
“I‘ve read your stories Raymond. I’ve cried when the final line was penned. You have a gift, a gift of compassion, and empathy for those who have died. Each of us have a story left to share, but our voices have been silenced. At least for me, you share what I no longer whisper and that is a source of great comfort to me, Raymond.” she said. It was at that moment, that she let go of my hand and touched her headstone as she turned and whispered, “Goodbye.” and I watched her slowly disappear.
She left me with more to ponder on, then the tears being wiped from my eyes as I returned to the wooden bench and sat down. Faith had instilled in me, another reminder, that love and sadness are both powerful lights that shine within our souls, in life and in death.
©2003 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)