Well, it’s about time for me to post something here that’s meatier than TV show quotes and blog fright (stage fright for blogging). Part of me doesn’t want to start with something this somber, but it’s what I have ready. You guys should also get used to the fact that sometimes I will indeed write something that lacks sarcasm and humor. So without further delay, I bring you today’s post…
Highway 8 runs beside the church where my grandfather is buried. My mother and her two sisters had their weddings at that church. My grandparents’ 30th anniversary party was held in the fellowship hall. The dinner honoring my great-grandparents’ birthdays is still held there every May. They are buried behind the church as well. My great-grandmother died when I was a baby, my great-grandfather when I was eight and my grandfather seven years later.
Less than a quarter-mile on the right is the road where my grandmother still lives. Less than another quarter-mile and also on the right on that road, my grandparents’ house sits on top of a hill. My grandfather’s sister and her family lived next door. My great-grandparents lived in the next house down. Sitting on the front porch of my grandparents’ house, I could look down to the road, across the creek and over the pasture until my gaze fell upon the back of the church building. It never occurred to me that the opposite was true.
My brother and I had to go with my parents and grandmother to the mortuary as they made funeral arrangements for my grandfather. I never understood why. I felt powerless and helpless as I sat behind them in the director’s office while they spelled the names of relatives who were deceased and still living for the obituary. I felt unnecessary as I wandered behind my mother through a maze of caskets and watched as she and my grandmother tried to choose the finish of the wood that would ultimately hold my grandfather’s lifeless body.
One thing my grandfather had decided was the plot in the church cemetery. On the day of the funeral, it was another hole in the ground, covered by a green canopy with the mortuary name on it – ever the marketing device even in mourning. But a week after the funeral I rode with my mother, her brother and one of her sisters to see the grave now that it had been completed with the final headstone. We stood in silence, staring at the mound of dirt that seemed as large as the tallest point of the Blue Ridge mountains. Then my uncle broke the quiet with, “You can see straight across to the house.” We all followed his line of sight.
Of all the times I had wandered around the cemetery at the birthday dinners, the weddings and the funerals, the glimpse of my grandparents’ house had never been so clear than that exact spot at that exact moment. Since that day, I still prefer to think that the times I’ve sat on the front porch staring out at the church, my grandfather has been just down the road, across the creek and over the pasture, looking back at me.