Dusk might be my favourite word. It reminds me of drive-in movies in the seventies. Film will start at dusk. Never heard that word before and rarely since. I was actually one of those kids who wore pyjamas to the drive-in. The first one I remember was The Sting. I was seven. It was far too complicated a plot for me but I was in pyjamas at a movie. Good enough for me.
My late father’s wife bought some Christmas greenery for his graveside. She’d had some problems getting flowers from the florist to the cemetery office to the graveside in previous times so she asked me if I could take care of it. Of course, I said.
I had to stay home for another delivery and so when I was able to get to the florist, it was late. And getting dark. The street where the florist is doesn’t have any cab traffic and my Uber was acting up so I had to walk. About a mile. In the dark and in a cemetery. Thankfully, I know my way around there so when I carried this Christmas greenery to my parents’ grave, it was less dangerous than it was spiritual.
A cemetery in the winter after dark is an odd place. The white of the snow, the dark of the sky, the absolute silence, it all blends together in a way I can’t describe. White and dark and grey and quiet. It all turns into a silent blue. The tombstones turn into shadows. The trees turn into echoes. It’s the loneliest and most serene place in the world.
I carried this greenery like one would carry a child. It was instinctive. It was a pilgrimage.
When I got to where I thought the stone was, I had to dig. It’s a flat stone, under snow, and my flashlight wasn’t working. But I tried and I tried and I eventually found it.
And I cried. Not for my parents. They are at peace and painless. But for me. Because I stood in a cemetery in the dark, clearing snow from an unseen stone, to lay a wreath at the marker of my parents, ten days before Christmas. When people die, it stops being about them immediately and it starts being about us.
When I left Beechwood, I walked. I couldn’t find a cab. So I walked for miles. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go but I knew I wanted to go. I walked for miles in the snow. I left my parents behind. And I headed to an unknown future. Always looking back for a car that might take me there. It never came.
And so Christmas in the cemetery was done. I wish them well. I miss them. I’d like their company. But now, I’ll live with knowing I visited them during the holiday season. If they could ever know that, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
We never stop being sons and daughters.