Monday, May 31, 2010

Laughing in the Cemetery

There is something so incredibly healing to be able to laugh in the cemetery. Not in an effort to cover up grief, but instead as pain fades to remember the joyful times and laugh. In Kentucky, at the top of a grassy meadowed hill there is a cemetery, fenced off from where a white Brahma bull used to live. There are tombstones from the 1800s through the early 2000s, many of which are decorated for the Memorial Weekend. A large tree spreads out branches in many directions, strong and reaching upward as the high point on that hill. It offers shade and a visual anchor as the grasses blow about. It is in this cemetery that my great-grandfather was buried. I never knew him; he died shortly after my grandmother was born. At the time, many tears were shed. As two more babies were laid to rest in that ground, tears again were shed. Wailing in grief, cries that would send shivers up your spine have been described to me.

Yesterday, the pain of these deaths had faded. We gathered at the cemetery to respect and honor the memories. But, the stories that were shared were the stories of the living; they were the stories of life and laughter, movement and hard work. Injuries and family ties were shared as we laughed and recounted stories. Sitting in the cemetery, taking off my tennis shoes and sparing my feet from a few more minutes of heat, I felt the cool in the grass from the tree’s shade. Cousins shared stories, another came to clean off the tombstone – picking at the engraved area with a knife to remove the growth that had occurred over a year. The Brahma bull was gone, but the memories live on.
It can be so helpful to have a place to grieve, a place to lay flowers and tell stories. It’s not really the place though that is as important as the chance to do so, to tell the stories of the people when they were alive, to tell the stories of these people when they impacted our lives. And eventually it is time to laugh in the cemetery.