‘Who are you visiting?’
‘My mum,’ I say.
‘Where is she?’
I half-turn my body, stretch out my right arm, and point with my forefinger.
‘She’s in the last row before the pathway,’ I say before turning to face the old man wearing navy overalls. ‘And you?’
‘My wife is just here,’ he says pointing to the circular cluster of small, square gravestones to my right. ‘And my parents who passed away twenty-five years ago are over there.’
I look to my left. Again another circular cluster of gravestones. And just like my mum’s, a vase filled with plastic flowers stands in front of each one. Except that mum loved tulips, so a bunch of tulips stand in the vase in front of her gravestone.
‘You’re not from around here,’ he says.
‘No. My parents moved to the country after my dad retired, but I still live in the city,’ I say. ‘And you?’
‘Lived here all my life,’ is his reply.
Aware of the relationship of the man standing in front of me to some of the gravestones on my left and right, I wonder if his entire world now lies within the confines of this cemetery.
‘I bet,’ he says. ‘You’ll think me crazy when I tell you I still feel as close to them today as when they were alive.’
‘No, I don’t think you’re crazy,’ I say. ‘No one knows for sure what happens after death, so it’s not for the living to say one way or the other if deceased souls sometimes linger awhile.’
The man nods in agreement. Once more I look towards my mum’s grave.
‘My mother died in an operating theatre in one of the hospitals in the city. When I visited her grave not long after her funeral, I could feel her presence. Telling me she was okay. I sensed her smiling, happy, and relaxed. Even buoyant. And pain-free. I can’t feel her presence anymore though, so I reckon she’s moved on.’
I smile at this stranger who had stopped me as I was traversing the cemetery. Perhaps he had done so because he was lonely, but also I suspect he was seeking reassurance he was not on his own.
So I willingly give him ten minutes of my time. For him to share some of his treasured memories and to feel a little less alone, and to allow those who are no longer alive to keep on living in our hearts and minds.
Copyright Jo 2013