Hope Travels to a Cemetery

She knelt beside the gravestone, surrounded by other markers unknown to us. Yet even with the multiple spirits in attendance and angels on guard, she was alone.

A young woman seeking closure from the death of her beloved nanny. Decades after the event, yet the pain still as fresh as the day she breathed her last.

When I step onto a cemetery’s soil, I always think of the show Our Town. That scene when major characters sit in their places beside their gravestones and observe family and friends in grief.

No expression on the faces of the dead characters – just an acknowledgement of life lived to its fullest, a few regrets and the somber reality of how quickly our timelines are fulfilled.

For this young woman who lost a lifetime friend, it was a sacred moment. The death of her nanny interrupted her middle-school years and created a searing hole of loss.

We don’t always pay attention to the grief of children: the loss of a pet, a grandparent or even an unexpected move.

As adults, we do what we have to do: arrange the cremation, pack up the belongings, schedule a garage sale to get rid of the detritus of another’s life.

So when children’s needs are passed over, it creates a gap in their growth, a scar that keeps bleeding at the reminders of every holiday, each birthday approached or a surprise smell that brings the loss back into clear focus.

For this woman, even the location of the grave was hidden – a great unknown affecting multiple families who knew this nanny.

Yet the cemetery held the secret, ready to reveal it at the proper time, eager to speed healing and salve a soul.

With the help of an internet site, findagrave.com, we found the general direction of where the grave might be. In the heat of early September we traipsed from row to row.

Thoughts of my own beloveds buried in cemeteries of the Midwest. Grateful for the belief we shared that we would meet again in an eternal state. No deaths there. No Covid-19. No sickness of any kind.

The writer in me paused to reflect on the myriad of stories reflected by dates: a grandfather who passed in 1889, a soldier from WWII, an eight year-old child. I could imagine the sobs of parents and wondered if the cause was the flu epidemic, a dreadful accident, maybe the scourge of smallpox?

Cemeteries provide a sense of history, a reminder of our mortality and a concrete symbol of the toll loss takes. Yet within the provision of closure, these sacred spaces also reflect Bible verses, pictures surrounded by stone, carefully manicured grass that protects vases of artificial or real blooms.

And cemeteries remind us to live life as fully as we can – while we can. Before our chairs are set beside the grave and we observe those who come to mourn.

Finally . . . a cry from my son. He used the background of an online photo to locate the grave. I watched the young woman slowly approach, knew she was glad to find it yet dreading the sight of that precious name and the death date inscribed below.

I carried the crimson mums we found at Wal-Mart, handed them to her, then stepped back to allow her space and time.

The day before our cemetery trip, my son and I prayed for this young woman. We wanted to support her quest and longed to see peace reflected on her lovely face.

After she spent several moments in reflection, she left a letter fastened with a blue posy. Then my son watered the mums and we left, slowly walking toward the car and away from those who could not follow.

Why was this moment so encased with emotion yet filled with hope? Because that young woman will soon become my daughter-in-love. She needed that healing day, and we needed to support her in it.

Hope finds its way into unusual places, but often peeks from an extraordinary moment. Then it reminds us how hope can heal – even decades later – and offers a promise of future joy.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more posts about hope, check out Hope Shines, available on Amazon and also in Large Print.

 

 

Hope for Future Shopping Trips

Woman ShoppingI miss shopping.

Not the online click-and-buy all of us are subject to during this time of Covid-19.

What I miss is the entire experience of shopping.

Oh, I know — most places are open. But I don’t want to mask up, risk the germs, avoid people and stand six feet away from other shoppers.

I want the fun and richness of what shopping used to be: discovering a new boutique, bumping into other women who want the same bargain, smiling customer service reps when we could actually see someone smile.

I miss it.

Deb and I always started with a steaming cup of chai. Then a review of the places we wanted to go and the items we needed to buy.

On some level, we knew our shopping would include surprise bargains or maybe an impulse buy, but that was part of the experience — part of the surprise adventure.

Always lunch at our favorite Mexican place or trying out a new business that smelled of green chiles and salty cheese. Always, plenty of guac and chips.

Usually an ice cream treat in the afternoon: something with pecans for Deb. Always something chocolate for me.

What I miss about the shopping experience is the joy of browsing — to finger through hangers of clothes, to slide my hands over the creamy satin or the corduroy threads, to revel in the colors.

Then the fitting room with giant mirrors. Trying on items, checking out the fit, a 360⁰ turn, asking Deb or another woman, “Does this make me look fat? What do you think about this color?”

Imagining wearing the new outfit for work, church or a special event. All the events that are gone now, too.

One day, Deb and I were invited by an “older” bride to choose between two dresses for her big day. “Go for comfort and beauty,” I said.

“Choose something you can wear again,” Deb added.

We congratulated the woman on her final choice and wished her well. The look on her face was priceless: the glow of a heart trying again for love, her imagination already jumping to how she would look on her wedding day, how her groom would stare at her and remember the outfit the next time she wore it.

Hope reminds us that we will someday return to the fun of shopping trips.

Some of the experience will be different. Deb is gone now, so I’ll have to find another buddy willing to share a chai or coffee, to spend a day in eclectic stores and honestly answer my questions, “Does this make me look fat? What do you think about this color?”

Prices will no doubt elevate as businesses try to recoup what they lost in 2020. So the day may be shorter, the packages fewer in number.

But the joy of actually choosing a new outfit, trying it on, reveling in the imagination may seem even sweeter because of what this year has done to us.

For now, I will continue my click-and-buy way of shopping or wear out my old stuff, at least until more of the Covid numbers go down and it feels safe to have fun again.

And I will remember the days when it was easier, before we could even imagine what might happen in a pandemic.

Hope still wins. It’s just taking longer than we thought.

©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Spend some time shopping online for a good book. Here’s one you might like: No Visible Scars.