Life at the end of a leash is an enlightening experience. My hound, Xena, gets the opportunity to catch up on her p-mail, cleverly deposited on fire hydrants and utility poles all over town. I get those precious moments of bonding with my soul dog. Along the way, I receive those cherished episodes of pure observation; taking in everything around me and embracing the beauty of the moment!
This weekend we are visiting my mother-in-law. Xena has suddenly found herself in puppy dog heaven, covering new routes and taking in a buffet of new-found scents. I, on the other hand, am the beneficiary of a tidal wave made up of new stimuli that must be gathered, processed, and shared through the keyboard. It is a wondrous gift as I polish my thoughts into insights. But it can also be a curse at the same time; as my mind races all over the literary landscape.
Today took my canine companion and me past an old and weathered cemetery. Every time the dog paused to explore a bush, I found myself staring over at the endless tombstones. Some of the interred passed into the other life during the late 1800’s. Others had only recently left us. There was the assortment of blessed souls who had lived well into their nineties. Some had been in our company for less than a year.
The array of tombstones ranged from a simple slab that had been hand-etched all the way to small-scale architectural monuments that towered over those around them. The eternal messages carved into the polished stone surfaces ran a wide gamut as well. There was simplicity, expressed in the form of a name and two dates. On the other end of the spectrum were those stones that told an entire life’s story. Passers-by were informed of a name, dates of birth and death, fraternal associations, the relation of the deceased to all they left behind, and occasionally a picture of the loved one no longer amongst us.
Many of the stones had fallen into disrepair. Several of the grave marker faces had been weathered to the point where they could no longer be read. I wondered if there was still anybody left who remembered the person buried six feet under the stone. One marker had split in half, the top piece having been leaned onto the base by some anonymous, yet respectful caretaker.
Other plots were simply pristine. A half century old stone looked brand new, grass carefully trimmed around the base, pinwheels or flowers driven into the surrounding ground. There were the monuments, carved out of marble, with columns that stretched into the overcast cold autumn sky. Either there was somebody still left to care for the plot or the deceased had left enough money behind to assure perpetual care of his final resting place.
A cemetery reflects in death who we were in life. Was our economic status reflected through the simplicity of our tombstone? Or was it a statement of the fact that we lived with little pomp and shared everything we had with those around us? Perhaps we did not take ourselves so seriously that we felt the need to be ostentatious in death. Were we so busy enjoying life that our final arrangements ceased to be important?
Then there are those interments that were left behind as monuments. These monoliths seek to compete with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I marvel at the amount of work that went into the stonework and wonder if an architect was hired to create the design. Were these people who had accumulated a vast amount of wealth, extending their life of splendor over to their final resting place? Had they been so insecure in their living moments that they had to leave an eternal granite legacy for those that would follow them? Perhaps they had failed to impress others in life so they chose to awe us in death.
A graveyard is simply a reflection of who we were in life. Everything we accomplished, every friend we made, each family member we embraced, every moment we shared with a stranger; it is etched into our tombstone. How will you portray your life to future cemetery visitors who happen to come upon your tombstone? Will they be in awe of your audacity or humbled by your simplicity? Will they just see a name and two dates or will they be touched by a carved posting of your legacy?
We live in the moment called life; we are remembered in the eternity called death. How will you be remembered? As for me, I am looking in the rearview mirror of my life; and the graveyard is closing fast!