The living and dead
This season is necessary. It becomes for us even more necessary the older we get. And yet, it might be one of the old traditions we have that may not last long into the future. This ritual of trooping to the cemeteries on these days has a cost. We can see that: the traffic, the crowds, often the noise, all these things make us wonder if they are worth it at all, if whether we are better off remembering the dead in our own homes.
But then we would miss the chance to bump into old relatives and friends we see only on these days. Time enough to exchange a few words. How are you? And then the conversation drifts as it always does to which mutual friend or relative passed away recently. How we all grow still one more year older with every year that we meet here on this particular day when we romance the inevitability of our own dying.
And we think again for ourselves how we wish to be placed after our passing. A simple concrete cross is appreciated? Or do we want none of that? Cremation is now vastly preferred. It simplifies things. And if we wish for some of our ashes to be placed in a small plot among our blood ancestors, our parents perhaps, then the cost of that becomes easier for everyone to bear. We must be considerate to those we love and leave them unburdened at the very end. It is a final act of love.
Oh, we will love them still where we are going. For as long as we love and are loved, whatever hell there is can’t be all that bad. And if we believe in these things, we would now have the chance to meet again with those who went before us. It is that simple.
And simple whether or not we believe all this talk about the afterlife. If it’s not there, then we will not even know. If it is there, the adventure can only continue.
But before all these, no one can really tell us much of anything. Except that we all die. But we still have this day, at least.
And as we must, we remember those we buried before us. We talk to them as if they could hear because it is possible, as we have been told, though no one can tell us for sure either way. We bring flowers. We light candles. While we walk and talk with the living, as we are wont to, we remember how much they loved life, how much they loved us even though we did not love them back 24/7 and every minute while we were all still together on this world.
We remember them in the knowledge we did not really know exactly who they were when they were with us. We met them at certain predetermined moments, in someone else’s words: passing by the hall; each day, or each week, or each year, depending on how old we were when we were so inexorably separated by life and their dying.
We did not really know them all that well. But this is okay. They did not know us all that well either. We are mysteries to each other. Nobody knows anybody all that well. And we should wonder if we know ourselves all that well also. We are mysteries, living or dead. We are inchoate, unclear stories, narratives without clear intelligible plots following after an intended moral lesson left for others to learn from.
And we, all of us, end as a plot in a cemetery not perhaps dissimilar from this. The grass growing silently about our markers, our plots, which plot is always silent. All the better for others to speak for us. And tell how we loved as much as we could though we did not really know how exactly to love another human being or even each other. We presumed the love between us. Even through those times when we felt for each other the opposite of love: indifference, unmindfulness, forgetfulness, hate, and, yes, numb.
Yet, it is good for us to do this. We need this for ourselves much more than the dead need it from us: to look upon particular plots of ground, to leave flowers, light candles, recite a small prayer made more important if we seldom ever pray. We whisper a few words to them as if they were alive, and can, and still do listen. We do not expect a reply from them. But always this thought enters our minds: how wonderful and too short life is, how we did not waste this day for spending it this way.
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