When our loved ones pass, the loss is visceral, all encompassing. The cemetery feels like a sad place, but as time passes it can be a place of comfort and peace. I never thought this until I recently moved near one. Literally, it is in my front yard. It is a very beautiful place full of artwork, sculptures, chapels, museums and even the most heavenly meditation garden. It is a place not just of endings but also beginnings.
When we are in the throes of grief, it is hard to see beyond the next minute or hour. Life feels arduous and full of tremendous suffering. Someone once explained it to me as an assault. My parents passed close together; it has been years and yet sometimes I still feel as if I walk alone in the world like an orphan.
Let me tell you, even though the sadness has not gone away for me, it has been transformed, and it finds other ways to express itself. Since I have moved close to such a beautiful cemetery, I walk in it all the time. There is a peace that is bubbling up inside of me, a warmth, a union and perhaps an understanding of death. I will take you on my walk with me and try to explain to your sad heart what I am beginning to see.
This cemetery is set up like a park; there are no big headstones. They have done this on purpose because they want it not to be a sad place but more to celebrate a life lived. As I begin my walk, the hillside is dabbled with flowers, some old, some new. Some of the graves are decorated for different occasions.
Among all of this, the birds are chirping, the trees sway. I can hear the whispers of the leaves as the breeze moves through them. The grass so green, shadows cast by the towering trees, geese wading in the pond, squirrels scurrying up a tree. People pass me by in their cars as they go to visit their loved ones.
As I continue walking up the very steep hill, my beautiful heart is beating hard, I am grateful it is beating and that my legs are strong. I read headstones: Loving Wife, Mother and Grandmother; Husband and Father (with a picture of a fighter plane — may be he was a pilot in WW II). There are multiple headstones all with the same family member names of long ago, now all in the same place, messages of love and poems written on many of them. Some hold only a beginning or ending date of a life lived. Every headstone has stories to tell.
Many thoughts fill my heart on this walk. I contemplate Mom and Dad, my life with them, stories of my life since they have died and the life I am living right now. As I continue on the walk, I feel that I am living is a peace that is full of gratitude for the love I have experienced thus far.
This journey of grief of losing my parents will never be gone from me, but it has become easier to carry. I miss them every day but walking in the cemetery reminds me this gift of precious life is not forever! Live your life — they would want that, and so do I. Life is a blink. People will mourn us too. Do you see how this walk opens up the grief?
As I am walking back home I continue to see others: families gathered, sitting on the grass, cutting the grass, putting fresh flowers around the grave, saying a prayer, I miss you, I’m sorry we did not get more time, I love you. The important thing to remember is we are all in this together.
Yes, this walk in the cemetery that I take almost daily fills my soul, helps me to understand why people have to leave us. My grief changes.
How will your beautiful heart move forward into your life now? Trust me, you will find your way. As I always say, grief needs to be felt, get it past the skin. When we do that, God will be in your heart and help you find your way.
God Bless you on your journey.