October 01, 2008
Moved, Used, Set Apart
Cemetery: talk about being used. I didn’t like it. It made me shake physically and shook me to the core. There have been times I’ve been “moved” to do something. Mostly, write letters. There was no letting the spirit move me this time. And that scared me.
Tuesday night, September 30.
Well, tomorrow is the 2 year mark of Jeff’s death. I know that Wednesday there will be visitors. I won’t run in to any of them, most likely. Leaving home at 5:30 am and not returning until 6:30 pm makes that unlikely. I wanted to be there even though I couldn’t. So, I left gifts for whomever to take away with them; cross etched stones. A token to put in a pocket or leave on a desk, to remind whomever visited that Jeff believed, and encourage their belief. I also left a laminated a note: Please Take One.
I wasn’t driving the commuter van; my trusted co-pilot was. It was a sunny day, bright and clear for September. Sunglasses required. I didn’t ask her to, and she didn’t get out of the vehicle, just waited patiently for me. I was glad she was there with me. I don’t know if I even registered my surroundings, at first.
Sometimes things like visiting the cemetery come across a bit unreal to me. It can be like that commercial for allergy medication, where a fog overlays my presence. Don’t know if it’s shutting down or short circuiting, but it happens a lot when I’m at Brookside. I stand at my husband’s grave, neatly tucked between his mother and his grandparents and it doesn’t seem like I’m really there in my body. It’s a weird elevation.
Maybe 10 seconds, maybe 15 seconds is all it took to place the stones. I didn’t linger. I didn’t see any reason to. As I straightened from the bent position of placing the stones, I noticed a car. Halfway down the aisle, on the opposite side; it was a bright red, brand new Challenger. “Pretty car,” I thought. I registered there was a man at a gravesite near the red car. It looked as if he was dead-heading flower arrangements. I gathered they were a few days old; there was no marker. “Recent,” I thought. “Sad.” I got back in the van and thought for a second that perhaps I should bring him a stone. “No.” I told myself. “No.”
In order to leave Brookside, we had to drive forward, past the red car, past the lone man. Around the tall pine in the center circle, I glanced again towards the new grave. Two pictures, two sets of flowers, two graves. Just as we reached Jeff’s row, I said “Stop.” My van driver stopped. No questions; not so much as a blink. What happened next wasn’t real to me, at least not while it was happening.
I moved. I was moved. I jumped out of the van, walked quickly to Jeff’s site, and grabbed a stone from the pile. Back around the van, I watched myself head towards the man. I was two-thirds of the way there, when he looked up and began walking toward me. I’m not comfortable saying I was out of my body, but I was watching the scene unfold with fascination, wondering what was going to happen.
We met. I put out my hand with the stone, and he put out his hand to receive it. I can’t tell you for sure what I said to him. I think it was something like, “This is an anniversary for me. I brought extra stones and thought you might need one.” I suddenly noticed a lot of details. The Metallica t-shirt, starch-ironed jeans, the wedding ring, the fact that the stone ended up face up on his palm without my planning it that way. I missed a lot of details, too. His hair might have been black or brown, maybe a mustache, maybe not. And that’s all there was to it. I turned and walked away quickly, and slowly; deliberately not looking back.
Back in the van, my driver looked at over at me and drove us out of there. It took me a good mile or so before I could speak.
“I never took my sunglasses off,” I said
“I don’t know why I did that,” I said.
“I didn’t do that,” I said.
And I knew it was true. I don’t normally accost strangers in cemeteries and hand them cross stones on the eve preceding the anniversary of my husband’s death. I don’t even talk to strangers. I barely talk to acquaintances. I’m never bold. I’d never been moved. Until now. The realization shook me, shaking me. Hands trembling, tears stalled, I played the vignette over and over in silence. What did he think? I was in a marked van! Did he see where I came from? Would he read Jeff’s marker? “Don’t doubt your self,” my friend said. “You’re regretting it, aren’t you? Don’t over analyze it. Just accept it.”
It stayed on my mind for the night, the next morning, throughout the day. After work on Wednesday, I had some time between my last drop off and the beginning of bible study. I went to the cemetery. Actually, that’s not quite true. I headed for the cemetery, slowed to turn in, saw the red car in exactly that same spot it had been in the previous day, and panicked. I did not make the turn. I did notice that the man was inside the car. Was he waiting? Couldn’t be. I drove past the entrance, took a right and drove around the block to calm myself. I sat at a stop sign and considered my options. I decided to go back.
I parked on the cross path from the red Challenger. I sat for a few seconds. I heard the engine start and dared to look left as the car passed me on its way out. I wasn’t relieved. I felt like I had missed something. In being scared, and reluctant, had I missed an opportunity? I waited a few minutes, checked to see how many stones were left, and headed off to bible study. I had to round the circle tree again, and as I drove over where the red car had been parked, I looked again at the graves there. A new stuffed animal had been added. I wanted to get out of the car and investigate the site; maybe take away names I could pray for.
But again, I was scared. Suppose he came back and I was on “his” graves? It would feel like trespassing. In some ways it already did. I wanted to believe he didn’t believe I was some sort of weird cemetery stalker. I had a right to be there, especially on that day. Why had he waited? Or, was it just coincidence, again? Or was it a removed acknowledgment of my gift? To see if I had been real? To prove he was real?
I went to bible study. I wanted to share my story, but again, I was afraid. Afraid it would seem like boasting for affirmation, afraid that I would seem over-eager to be blessed, afraid that I would be marked as being used by GOD. In the end, I couldn’t help myself. I was disturbed, and needed reassurance. I felt the chill when I finished speaking. I felt the heated flush of embarrassment begin. I felt foolish and fool hardy.
“You let the spirit move you.” Pastor said firmly, quietly, deeply, when I paused. “But I fought it, too.” I replied. I finished telling the story. That got me all around silence. That made me uncomfortable. I’m still not sure sharing was the best idea. I received a few hugs after class. For my anniversary or for my distraught thoughts? Don’t know, but I no longer feel like I am part of that group. And that is making me very sad.
Posted by jaselin at October 1, 2008 01:59 PM