The fact that we’ve been living in a kind of bubble the past year was apparent to me the other day. The isolation of Co-vid and a broken bone has given me the privacy that comes with being alone. Of course we need people (or as my mother used to say, “Without people, we get funny in the head”). But after a little time has gone by I find myself focusing more easily and I am able to see something “more” or “deeper” in my quiet surroundings. So there are some pluses to all that has happened.
The other day I was at the Dawson County Cemetery adding some flowers to my folks’ graves. It was a perfect Spring day — beautiful blue sky with fluffy clouds, little to no wind, and the temperature was just right. As I looked around I noticed the gravestones, many with names of people I have known; many already decorated with flowers; cars coming and going and people visiting quietly in family groups as they fixed flowers and walked around just looking at the graves. It was a small town Memorial Day weekend. And I wished everyone had this opportunity and every moment could have this kind of perfection.
The cemetery was beautiful and green. Visiting a cemetery is a quiet moment of remembrance. Death has a way of stripping back the layers we put on as the years go by. When facing the memorials to long dead family and friends there is no pretending. These days of people traveling the world, living in faraway places is the way it is. Humanity has always been on the move to “another place”. Sociologists say the migration of people today is greater than anytime in human history. That is pretty staggering — war, famine, disease, poverty — all contribute to the search for something better. Children have to try their wings and push themselves away from the “tie that binds”. And I get all that.
But on that day, there was a sense of returning to the soil from which we come; of remembering at our most basic level who we are. The funeral service reminds us “from dust you are and to dust you shall return.” And it is not a bad thought. At the end of life we all become part of the common soil of which the earth is made and we are blended with all the colors and creeds of humanity in a peaceful finality that is common to all.
Even with the activity around me the day was so quiet. It was as if we were all in suspended remembrance. I am a firm believer that everyone needs to return on occasion to where your family came from. Even with dysfunctional relationships, going home can be healing, looking at people with more honesty. People change; there is strength and courage rising from those stones with those familiar names.
Lately I have been reading a lot of history. I am overwhelmed by the bravery of the people of Britain at the time of the blitz and the people of France during occupation by the Nazis, the quiet courage today of people under great stress like Belarus. I have read about the changing mores of American society and the long road to a better understanding of how we are to live together in peace. And the courage of those who fight for democratic government today, for the right to free elections and voting. And the people who walk to the podium in the face of great personal danger and speak about the things that matter like equal justice for all and an end to violence and hatred. And the people who carved a life from a difficult land and people of color and indigenous peoples who have endured centuries of punishing treatment from people with no soul. But these people are rising and are demanding their right to equal and just treatment under the law.
Sitting in the quietness aof a cemetery all those things take on new importance. Life is very short and the purpose of our lives is to live with integrity and in peace and prepare this earth for the next generation that it may be better for them.