January 22, 2011
Stumbling through facebook a while back I happened across a picture that my cousin posted. The photograph gave me pause, I downloaded it, and find myself looking at it at odd times. This space is there, right now, as I type on this keyboard. I find that to be ... irksome. That makes no sense to me, but that is what I feel.
I see the names carved into the stone in a way that the two of them wanted, with designs they picked, but it feels wrong. I think about the meeting they had with the gentleman who sold them these bits of property way back when. I wonder if the stone was included in the package... Did some bent over little man hand them a book that they looked through with simple line drawings of these stones, and did they pick through them and decide on this? The state of mind of that day, when they chose the details, did it hold true to them for the rest of their lives?
The names on the stone. They speak nothing of the lives they represent. How could anyone know that these two people lived a life of struggle, work, and family? Lives dedicated to the well being of others. They worked countless hours in a cotton mill and on a farm to provide for a family. They scraped enough money together to make sure the kids had things they wanted. They made sure everyone they came in contact with was well fed. They were happy to see almost anyone at all... And they would let you know it. Their faces would fill with genuine wonder when they held a child in their laps. They cared nothing for going places or being seen, happiness didn't include anything that could be bought. They were righteous people and loved God, but never turned away anyone, regardless of what they believed. They were my grandparents...
It's like a photograph appearing in an obituary, it doesn't seem right. Which photograph of you do you think would be used in your death announcement appearing in your local paper? Which one of the hundreds of pictures of yourself that you've seen do you think will be the one? And would you really want to pick it? Or even know the one chosen?
I don't really want to know what happens to me after I die, meaning my physical person. My final resting place? No thanks... I could see myself being depressed over some horrible incident, standing in the rain on a lonely night, fog creeping up from the forest behind me as I stare down at a spot in the dirt where I know my body will someday be doomed to lie until the earth is burned to a cinder by the sun....
Photographs are a moment frozen in time. Looking across the faces of people and the places associated with them brings back memories of those times. I find myself considering the small out of the way things when I'm in a place that means something to me. A small corner of a bench set along a wall where I once waited. When I revisit that day I will think of that bench... The feel of it and the view, some sort of awkward angle while looking down at the ground.. The sound of the ocean behind me as it broke on that wall, and the smell of the humid air as it poured over my shoulders, pushed along by an endless breeze.
I think to myself, that bench, breeze and humidity are still there. When I'm driving or listening to someone talk the image will pop into my mind. When someone mentions that trip I will think of that place or the cobblestone that was tossed next to the building that I stared at as I walked by in the heat of the day. I thought briefly to myself, "How did that get up there? Who dislodged it?"
A huge ant bed nestled against a tree way out in the woods, undisturbed by people at all, allowed to grow to nearly three feet in height.. I think often about walking past that spot and glancing over.. I stopped for a moment and looked at it. The sun was beating down, the air was stifling, the middle of summer, humid, hot... That image stays with me.
For some reason those are the images I go to when I seek comfort. I've seen people make photo albums of others after they pass away. I think that I would rather have a photo album of the tiny glimpses of the places I've seen during my life. A book of what people saw during their time on earth would better represent that individual than photographs of their person. They never really saw themselves throughout life as they are depicted in those photographs. The sum of their lives and memories are made up what they witnessed, not how they looked... A photo album of the world through that persons eyes..
That would seem more comforting to me...