I walk with Roxy each day in the local municipal Cemetery.
It started out because anywhere else, our self absorbed fellow citizens walk with their dogs off leash.. And the do it wherever they please. I suspect that many of them really get a kick out of scoffing at the leash laws right in front of all the signs that say, All dogs on leash all the time.
It is tempting to skewer that behavior with the long thorns of acidic sarcasm and wicked wit. Let me just dismiss that path by saying that we are merely seeing another manifestation of the heads in the sand, I’m entitled Unites States of Narcissism. It is our culture now.
i was struck by the quiet in the cemetery. Expecting to be put off by being around dead people, I was surprised. No smell of rot. No hands reaching up out of the grave to grab Roxy and pull her, screaming, back down undergroud. No apparitions being exhaled like thin smoke by the grave. Not a thing from Hollywood at all. Just quiet and grey stones in varying stages of wear stuck at tottering angles, like uneven teeth in an old man’s mouth, On brown grass. Gothic trees reaching with concentration camp limbs silently to something we cannot see, lording their powerful shadowed presences over us lesser mortals.
Nancy had found this place after having been frightened by dogs off lead while walking Roxy also. She had urged me to go, but I was reluctant. Why?
We had made a memorial to our three beloved German Shepherds Zora, Bruno and Kaiser. All three died in our house on the mountain with us right by their sides. I took to heart what Butch, our deceased Schutzhund trainer had said was his moral commitment to his GSDs: he would make certain that the last thing any one of them saw on this earth was his loving face. Amen. Me too.
We had found a cross shaped piece of wood, the day after Bruno died, on a spot in the woods where he loved to lie. More than coincidence, random chance? I stained it, found rocks and spray painted them gold, and made a little memorial mound on that spot. I loved to go there, sit on the bench I’d made of cinderblocks and boards, remember them while loving the beauty of the woods and feeling, still achingly sorrowful for their absence, grateful for their lives.
On the last night we were in that house, a really perfect cool clear night on last March 29-30, we took the urns with their ashes, and spread them in our woods memorial chapel. I read a farewell passage and prayer we had written for the occasion. We did the same at all their favorite outdoor spots.
That was supposed to have tied off the loose ends of grief. It did not. It did not because it was aimed,ever so subtly, at relieving me, at least, of my grieving for them — which I still am doing and most likely will do until the day when I die too. I had not gotten the message.
The cemetery is not colorful, and the plastic flowers or wilted real ones just emphasize by contrast the grey, colorless ness of a whole bunch of old and new graves. It is clear to me that there will always be loose ends, that I could well be one of those headstones one day, and at 76, not too far off. My memorial spot back up on the mountain– well, it was not an acceptance of life on life’s terms. And that was a well meant mistake, an act of American pretend. It was a way to hang on. You cannot hang onto anything gone from this world, it’s like trying to grab and hold a chunk of The Present.
What’s left? For me what’s left is the realization that this life, which seems so hard and sturdy with its atoms and molecules and thumbs that hurt when hit with my hammer, is just an illusion. When you cannot stop the show and cannot hold onto the present, how can it be otherwise? A glorious, beautiful, super ultra high definition movie which we crate as we act out our roles. A moving feast. What a theater, what a chance to grow!
So: Memento mori–remember that I too must die. And I’ve discovered that in doing that, I find much much more of rich joy in that ephemeral elusive thing we call the present. Heavens, today is a great day to die on! I now know that native American wisdom to be a statement of gratitude for reality, not a morbid preoccupation with Holllywood’s contorted view of death and dying.
Thank heavens for my cemetery walks. I have my beloved Roxy with me, sometimes my dear, patient, loving and long suffering Nancy — and being there above ground provesI’ve got one more day on which to enjoy the abundance of God’s earth. Carpe diem and memento mori.