Where can you trace stories back to hope? What can you make endings of?
I played by the graveside.
Mildly hushed for being a distraction to the service. I didn’t mind, but I was bored. So I picked pieces of grass and laid them on the stones nearby by and traced lots of names with my fingers.
Now I know.
All those little children, in the chained off section of the cemetery...they’d like that best. A four year old making a pile of grass on the headstones. Finding a way to play through a funeral service and wondering why nobody was paying attention to me. It makes me smile. If there is life after death I think they smiled too. At having their names touched by the hands of a child baptizing ashes with torn bits of the world around them. The sun was too hot and at some point I moved to the shade of the lone tree outside the perimeter of the infant section.
I wonder now.
Why were the headstones smaller? Why I dreamed the night before he died of all the things that happened. When I woke up in the red tent instead of the green one and knew it was true. The night before I had called my father by his name, because he hadn’t yet heard my mother. It sounds almost the same as “dad”. Mildly chided for the disrespect but I didn’t mind. We were yelling, my mother and I, and it was important.
I know now.
24 years forward, I’ve a child the age of this memory. We’re going camping today. He calls me and his dad by our names sometimes and plays thoughtfully in the dirt. Still often mildly chided for various things as four year olds are. He loves to capture attention and tell us about his dreams. I’m older and wiser and tired and I’ve changed my name. I know death comes in more than a grave and always wish I dreamed the night before to make waking up the next day easier. Sometimes I wonder if my whole life is just something born too early. Sensitivity like pale skin where anybody can see my insides.
So much is muddy between then and now. So much is senseless, inexplicable, meaningless, and heartbreaking. And you ought to be silenced if you think otherwise. As Richard Rohr says, “Higher stages of consciousness always empathetically include the lower, or they are not higher stages!” Stop trying to make sense of things for a bit. It’s better for us all that way.
But, this very little brother of mine gave me something I do not think I ever knew until just this moment that I have needed to stay.
The way (gift?) of it, that comes back around, that never goes away, that you awaken to, that you lay to rest. A name on a stone in the grass. Pain in the wilderness, a flight for life, birth, 90 minutes of a beating heart, and waking up the next day. It is a part of living in this world, the saltwater pool of memory. A language we all learn without words and then find a way to speak.
I have to finish packing now. We’ve got a red trailer and we’re going to set up a green tent. The top is open to the stars and we’ll be far enough out into the dark that light pollution won’t block the view. And as we look up I think we’ll all listen for stories of when we were younger, though the endings we dreamed may be farther off than the mourning.
We will be imagining, my children and I.
And that is important.