Monday, June 16, 2014
Transition and Tradition
I came here because I want to be alone. Its a good place for it. The cretin with the shovel that ran me off the last time I was here is probably retired. That was, what, fifteen years ago? He may even be dead like everybody else here. Everybody else here but me. I'm mostly still alive.
I don't come here often. I think I've been here just three or four times in the twenty seven years my brother has been here.
I don't really know what to look for. I don't know what it looks like anymore. I remember the single granite headstone with a double next to it for my Parents when they finally need it but I don't remember much else. My Dad used to put American Flags all over it. Trying to tell the world that his middle son really was the soldier that he imagined, not just a kid that joined the Army to get away. Dad doesn't even remember him anymore so there are no flags to guide me in. My sister used to put Mickey Mouse figurines on the grave because my brother liked him when he was a kid. People always stole them so she stopped. Not even a mouse to help me.
All I know is that the last time I was here, I wanted to grieve. I was the one that had to be strong when my brother killed himself. No one else could so it fell to me. I never got to grieve so that's what I wanted to do the last time I was here.
I remember crying that day. I remember talking to the grave as if it could give me answers. As if it could tell me why. I remember looking up from my anguish and seeing a City Parks Department worker leaning on a shovel at the maintenance shed watching me. It must have been a good show. Like today, I had been there to be alone. I left because of that ill-mannered cretin. I've not come back until today.
So I know that the grave is fairly close to the street and in sight of the maintenance shed. Because of the trees and because of a rise in the ground, that narrows it down considerably. It has to be in this small corner of the cemetery because that's the only place in the whole graveyard where you can see, and be seen from, the maintenance shed.
I start walking. Its hot. Its muggy because its Florida and its summer so it just rained. That's OK. It won't take long to find my brother's grave. Its right around here somewhere. Maybe then I can finish that talk that I started way back when.
Truth be told, I want to talk about something else. I'm here to grieve but not about something that happened half my lifetime ago. My brother's grave is just a place where I think I can go to do that. No one goes there anymore. I can be alone.
I'm having no luck. I check all the places that look right. Nobody with my last name there. I expand to the next block of graves, and then the next and the next. Still no luck.
I decide to search smarter. I go to the top of the little rise because I know it can't be behind it. If it was, I couldn't have seen the maintenance shed and shovel-leaning cretin. My shirt is drenched. Sweat burns my eyes. My sleeves are too wet to dry them anymore so I use my fingers to sling most of the sweat away. I keep walking. Its right here someplace. It has to be.
I notice coonties growing at several plots just as they are at the old family plots farther North in the Suwannee Valley cemeteries where four or five generations of my Grandparents, Great Grandparents, Mary Ann and my Great Uncle and Great Aunt rest. I have coonties at home that I grew from seeds that I took from those cemeteries. I decide that I will find the grave, do what I need to do and come back tomorrow to plant those coonties. It is a good idea.
I keep walking. I think about my brother. How the people that tried to help him were the last people on earth that could have helped. How everything they did just pushed him closer to the edge.
I still can't find what I'm looking for. How many times have I seen this grave or that one over there? Five, six? I can't see the maintenance shed from any other part of the cemetery so it has to be here but where? How do you misplace a grave?
I ask God to show me where it is. I imagine that He smiles just a little because he knows better than I do that I'm not there to find the grave. I get the idea that He is about to show me what I'm really there to find. I decide I'll make it easier on both of us and let Him.
I pray as I walk. I ask God to help the friend that is weighing so heavily on my heart. I tell Him that I don't care about the friendship. I just want Him to deliver the friend. I tell Him that I know I have nothing to offer Him in exchange. Nothing with which I can bargain. I just ask for mercy and promise that I won't get in the way.
And it hits me. Like my Parents trying to help my brother, I may be the last person on earth that can help my friend. The preacher said it wasn't in my power but I still want to. Half my friends say I can't help. The other half say my friend isn't worth worrying about but I still want to do something; to find the magic words that will deliver my friend from the demons. Why else do people have friends?
I keep walking. I keep looking for the grave but I've found what I came here to find. This makes it different. I realize that its not just that I can't help. Its that I would get in the way. What I can do is ask God and have Faith that He will work His will in my friend's life. That He will deliver my friend. I will stay out of the way.
I haven't found the grave but I can't stay any longer. They are already closing the gates in the back. Its OK. I didn't get to be alone but I found what I was looking for.
If work is slow tomorrow, I will come back and find the grave so I can plant the coonties. Some things change. Some don't. It is still a good idea.