Granny and I used to walk up to the church where our people were buried. Her Mama had given the land, carved it from the farm, for a church to be built, and a graveyard for her children and her children's children to be buried. She wanted them all together, wanted them to have a place to rest. Granny and I pulled weeds and she introduced me to the ones who died before me--her Mama and Daddy, her brothers her sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and children--people she loved and mourned.
Looking back, I realize that many of my questions were painful. But she always answered, even when I asked about Verna Sybil, her first baby, born dead, or Lettie Joy, her little girl whose picture in the coffin was kept in a bureau drawer. I often slipped it out; she was beautiful in her white dress and long dark hair, only eight or nine when she died of pneumonia and whooping cough.Others knew better than to ask but when I think back now, I wonder who else Granny spoke to about these children? Granny was a teenager when her own Mama died, a stern, devout, loving woman. Granny planted roses on their graves, pink rambling roses from the yard, roses older than the farm, roses started from a bush at another long ago homestead.
The hilltop was covered with thrift, pink and purple and white. The graveyard was surrounded by orchards, and the mountains that rose around us were softened with the pink and white blossoms of apples, peaches, and dogwood. Even the sting of death itself was softened by the beauty of this spot.
With Granny as my conduit, I understood that people who had died were real, that their lives were equal to my life and the lives of the people around me. Nothing is more difficult to communicate. We look back across time, and it is finished, written in stone. It would seem that those people were better, wiser, stronger. They were not. They were just like us--brave, silly, nervous, insecure, optimistic, jealous, depressed. Everything we are, they were. They did not know the future. They stepped out in faith, cowered in uncertainty.
I reached through the veil to take their hands, and they whispered back, we are waiting for you. . . .
This thought comforts me greatly.