An ideal Sunday for me involves church, coffee drinking, reading, writing, and then a nice, contemplative walk. Last week after reading for a while, I left the coffee shop and decided to go for a walk downtown before sunset. Though the cemetery had closed about 45 minutes prior, one of the gates was cracked open, so I made my way in. I walked to my grandmother's gravesite, reflected for a while, cried, wished she were sitting there with me and then stood up, wiped the salty water from my face and the dirt off back side. On the way out I read names on gravestones I wondered about their lives. My imagination ran free as I tried to conjure up mental images of these people. I embellished and created their storylines. Passing the gravesite where a funeral home tent was still up, I felt the weight of mourning. I recalled all the times in my life that I've stood at gravesites and looked into the faces of people who bore fresh, raw wounds. I thought about the families and went about my way praying aloud, trusting that no one there would judge me for the content of my prayers. For a while I soaked up the silent peace of the place.
As I got nearer and nearer to the gate, I heard the laugh of a young child. In one of the aisles between artificial flowers and granite stones bearing the names of those long since passed, a grandfather and grandson were playing a mock basketball game. They shot the ball into imaginary hoops and passed it back and forth. The grandfather, playing defense, moved in closer to the grandson and waved his hands. The grandson began to chuckle, ran in the direction of the opposition's basket, and scored in the imaginary hoop. The grandfather called out the score as the child smiled in response.
On the way out I smiled and bid them a good evening. As I walked back to my car, I was cognizant of the crunch of rusty leaves beneath my feet and the azaleas on the bushes showing their vibrant, smiling faces. I watched a squirrel leap from branch to branch and cringed at the sight of a dead bird lying on the sidewalk. As our burning star began to set behind the trees, I thought of the week to come.
Reflecting, I said aloud "this is where we live. The intersection of death and life." Though not always easy to experience, I think I'm coming to recognize that there's a kind of beautiful, poetic, rhythm to our lives.
This is the journey we're on. One of laughing and crying. Of imagination and reality. Of living and dying.
Perhaps the best thing we can do is simply be present and experience it all.