Cemeteries

Sylvia was cremated and sits besides our bed. Often I take her places with us, tucked in my bag with the blankie she was wrapped in during her hours with us. We had an option to bury her of course, but we wanted to bring her home. The funeral home that we worked with when she died is inside a beautiful cemetery here in town. Of all the surreal moments we have had since she died, meeting with a funeral director three days after she was born was perhaps the most out of body experience. This can not be happening, I kept repeating.

Cemeteries used to be an eery place for me. I am no stranger to death, but I certainly wasn’t totally relaxed in a cemetery nor did I really get it. It always seemed odd to me. Backwards in thinking really, to defy the logical cycle of life and bury people in boxes. I wasn’t unsure of cemeteries from a spooked out place of mind, more confusion and a lack of understanding. Even loosing family members, I didn’t have a connection with cemeteries themselves. I grieved the loss, yes, but never felt the connection to the land. One of my grandpas, whom I was very, very close with, was cremated and buried at the cemetery that we worked with for Sylvia. After our meeting with the funeral director Carlos and I walked to my grandpas grave and talked to him, told him how beautiful she was, and if he is with her, thanked him for taking care of her. An entirely new understanding suddenly crashed over me.

During our trip down the coast we passed by through probably hundreds of small towns. Most of them had signs on the highway indicating the direction of their cemetery. I think I noticed almost all of them. Often we drove along side them on the highway or you could see them right off the road, or if you peered down a dirt road a bit we could see them.  Just beautiful. The heavy headstones standing up like little soldiers, or elaborate obelisks towering pointing at the sky, tombs and sarcophagus’ even were common, sometimes opulent or gaudy, other times simple with clean lines and an obvious presence. I imaged the families that probably made up the bulk of the population of most of these tiny cities, usually just a couple hundred people, pearched on some farm land on arguablely the most beautiful stretch of America. The cemeteries were probably made up of mostly several family names, the decedents still living within a couple miles. I wish we had stopped at some of them just to walk around. I look at cemeteries and smile now and feel my heart fill with love. They are so beautiful and there is so much love, energy and paradoxical life. From the smallest piece of cement indicating a body is buried beneith it, to the largest, most detailed, extravagant monument, someone has grieved that loss. People have cried over this plot of land that represents so much. That was someone. That name. Those dates. That was someone. Cemeteries take on an entirely new meaning since Sylvia died, because of her, they are different. I see the pain and I see the peace in a cemetery now. It is a place to rest, literally and figuratively to me.

The cemeteries we would pass by often had multi million dollar views but in the simplest most humble way. They were constructed there before the land meant anything and the view was just another beautiful stretch of ocean, one you can find anywhere along the coast. There is no wealth in most of these cities. Even the land value I am sure isn’t what it appears it should be because they are in the middle of nowhere. Carlos mentioned a couple times as we drove by some of them what a beautiful view the deceased have at that cemetery, how amazing and beautiful is it that they get to look at that view every day. I couldn’t agree more.

The cemetery that my grandpa is buried at and handled Sylvia’s cremation has a special spot for stillbirths and infant deaths. It is so heartbreakingly beautiful. Tiny plots, precious headstones, pictures, flowers, stuffed animals and toys are there, marking the beautiful souls gone too soon. There is a statue of a child with a lamb and a plaque honoring the babies with benches across from it. Carlos and I took Sylvia to this area of the cemetery when we picked her up from the funeral home. We also went there on October 15th, which is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and placed flowers at the statue and cried. It is so tragically beautiful. You can feel so much grief and so much love in this little spot. I imagine it is somewhere I will go many times a year for reflection, meditation or just to cry. It is beautiful. Though Sylvia sleeps by our bed or often comes with us, I feel her energy when I am there.

Perhaps I am wrong but the understanding, respect, appreciation and admiration we now have for cemeteries I don’t think comes until a great loss is suffered. A loss that shakes your core, alters the direction of your life and makes you think it would have been easier to take your own life than to loose this one. These losses, make you look at where the deceased rest as divine place of peace on an entirely different level than you ever thought possible.

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Teresa MendozaComment