Respect for the Graves

Recently, I saw a story on the news about Andrew Lumish, a man who has spent the last 5 years cleaning headstones of U.S. Veterans in Tampa, Florida.  His story touched a place in my heart because our oldest son is buried at Highland Cemetery.  We have a family plot with a beautiful headstone so it gives me comfort to know that we will all be together out there one day.

My husband stopped by to visit our boy last week and noticed that the newly occupied plot behind ours was in disarray.  They did not have a headstone yet, just a temporary marker along with some flowers and other sentimental items.  We also had a temporary marker on ours for months as headstones are very costly.  Most of the items, along with the marker, were laying down flat like the caretakers just ran over them with a mower.  Dave walked over and fixed it so the family wouldn’t find it in such a state.  I cannot imagine how I would feel if I went to the cemetery to visit our boy only to find that someone destroyed everything.

There were some young men doing groundskeeping while Dave was there.  He said that they were talking very loudly to each other over the headstones and swearing a lot.  This made me very sad.  I go to the cemetery for peace and comfort and obviously this was not the day to go.  I only hope that they respect the light saber, Star Wars figurines, and Darth Vader sign that we have at Christian’s grave.

As a teenager, I thought it was cool to go to the cemetery at midnight with my friends so we could tell stories and scare each other.  I never disrespected any of the headstones but I also didn’t think about what a cemetery really is – a place where we can go to feel comfort, grieve, or even talk to those we have lost.  I admit that I talked to Christian a lot more during the year after he passed away.  Now when I go, I tell him how much I love and miss him and what we have been up to.  I also spend time in silence.  There are many magpies, western meadowlarks, robins and other birds who keep me company too.  I don’t like the sight of bird droppings on the headstone but I like to think that they are watching over my boy.

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Luckily, Highland Cemetery locks the gates at night.  It is in the most beautiful area where the sky is big and the hills are rolling all the way to the horizon.  I only hope that people will follow the example of Andrew Lumish and my husband and respect the graves of those who have passed on before us.

 

Double Rainbow

My grandmother, Joan Juanita Peterson, was laid to rest last Saturday.  When we walked into the funeral home, one of the first things I noticed was her casket – pine green with gold pine trees along the edges.  The first thing that came to mind was, “that matches her.”

Once we were all seated and the pastor started the services, the first of 3 songs started playing that grandma had picked out months before – all classical pieces.  As I sat next to my dad with tears streaming down my face, I remembered the cassette tape she gave me when I was younger.  It was by Mantovani.  At the time, I was listening to Duran Duran and Bon Jovi but I remember enjoying and appreciating the cassette in private.  I wish I would have kept it.  The pastor shared great stories and memories of grandma and my heart ached for her three sons as well as my sister.  Sherry took care of grandma in her later years, mending fences and roofs, painting, and replacing floors.  She always bought grandma cotton candy at the fair.  She also took care of my grandma in her final days until the end.

The graveside services were beautiful – warm weather, blue skies with soft clouds drifting by, and cows quietly grazing in the distance.  I commented that it was a beautiful place to be laid to rest.  The funeral director agreed, saying he also enjoyed going up to the cemetery for moments of peace at the end of the day.

At the end of the services I gently patted grandma’s casket and told her I loved her.  There is a beautiful crab tree in bloom right over grandma and grandpa’s grave and it was full of pink flowers.  I plucked one of the blooms and set it on her casket before I walked away to join my husband and son.

Everyone was hungry at the luncheon and I was humbled by the church and everything they did to help my family.  They provided a huge table of food and a kind woman plated up my mother’s food so she could keep both of her hands on her walker.  My two-year old nephew, who has also been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, ran around the church basement in his little suit with a mischievous grin on his face.  Despite the sadness in my dad’s heart, this little fella did not fail to make Dad smile.

That evening a storm rolled in.  When the rain started to fall a double rainbow formed. It stretched from the edge of the Judith Mountains to the front of the house.  Over the edge of the mountains, lightning started to strike.  The Judith’s took on an otherworldy, orange color and they lightly glowed in the setting sun.  The closing of the day we said goodbye to grandma could not have been more beautiful.

The next day, my son said “Mom, the lightning was there along with the rainbows because great grandma was sassy.”  Well said son, I thought.  I cannot think of a better closing to the great novel of my grandma’s full life.  You have inspired me to live more, love more and fear less; to be bold and be myself; and to refuse to take a backseat in life.  Rest in peace grandma – you were a warrior and an artist who painted the most vivid picture of life.

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