I was having an odd day. I couldn’t quite place my finger on why.
So I stopped by a cemetery.
Cemeteries are peaceful. I don’t need to buy a coffee to justify my existence, and no one to worries question my quiet introspection.
The first time that I remember entering a cemetery was 1986. I was eight years old and in the gifted program at my elementary school.
Our field trip was to the local cemetery.
We had to find the oldest person buried there.
And the youngest.
The youngest person buried in that small Connecticut cemetery was three days old.
At each gravestone, we did a rubbing with black paper and a gold crayon. I don’t remember what we did with the rubbings, but I remember the crevasses of stone appearing and disappearing underneath my crayon. I remember the sunshine playing games with the leaves of the trees. I remember picturing the baby underneath my feet but being unable to picture the grief.
Six months later, our gifted teacher killed herself.
But I never lost my appreciation for cemeteries.
They are wide-open space between the living and dead. A place of stark contrast. We walk out of the cemetery, or we don’t ever walk again. We are band together with the living, or we stay behind forever. But within this declaration of life and death, cemeteries carry a soft, green muting of the in between. We find ourselves alone but surrounded — with no reason to talk but so much to say.
A cemetery reminds me that life and death is.
Even when death comes so soon. So unexpectedly soon.
The baby was three days old. My teacher was thirty.
I hope to live to be an old lady with a collection of large red hats shading too much purple eyeshadow and rouge.
But I imagine it’ll still feel too soon.