It takes a lot of courage to stand at the edge of a grave of someone you love. The first time I had to do it, I was bereft of courage. I was a child. I did not want to be there. It was a cold, grey damp November day. I loooked longingly at the gate of the cemetery. It was not so far away. I could dart through the crowd of people. I wanted to take off at a dead run, off down that gravel road. Far far away from this place where I did not want to be. I wanted to run so fast, and so far, until my breath was gone and I could collapse on the cold damp ground and lie there exhausted until it was over.
I missed my chance, though, the crowd was gathered and I was there. My heart was a cold stone in my chest. The grass was wet. The feet of the people had churned up the clay-ey soil into slick mud. The brown leaves were drifted wet and soggy against the stones and the bushes. An ancient old tree was over us. It branches bare of leaves. It was hung with moss, grey green shaggy moss. There was nothing nice, any where. I could see the pain written all over my father. See the tears in my mothers eyes. I could feel the ache in her throat.
An old man stood behind me. His english was broken and quaint. His walk was stumbling. His hearing was not the best. His eyes had a cloudy look. But his eyes and his ears were better than mine. "That tree is full of angels" he told me, leaning over my stiff, unyielding shoulder. He pointed at the tree. His eyes were full of light. He was listening, too, I could tell. "They know about us" he said. " They came to comfort us." I was wary. Every one tried to tell you things. Things that made no sense. They thought that were helping you. They didn't know... any thing...
I tried not to, but I imagined. I imagined angels in that ugly tree. They wouldn't be stately, majestic, scary arch angels. Maybe they were soft motherly angels. maybe they were smiley baby angels. Maybe they were friend angels, just looking down from the tree and peace and comfort, and even joy were gently sifting down over us. Over me! Maybe I couldn't hear the music because I was hearing the people singing. maybe...
I have been there many times, now, over the years. I have stood at the edge of other graves. I have come there just for the peace of the place. I have come there to plant flowers. I have never wanted to run away again. I have come there in the sunshine. I have laughed and chattered there with my family anf friends. I have seen others shed tears and weep and grieve . I have looked for the angels. I have listened for them. I know they are there. In the green summer, when the leaves are thick and glossy. They are there sifting peace and comfort and even joy over the ones who come here. I know. I saw it in that old mans eyes, when the cloudiness turned bright. I have heard it in that old mans voice,
in that broken english.
I stood there now, again. It is a grey drizzley day the kind of day my father loved. The grass is wet. The peoples feet have churned the clay-ey soil into mud. It is January. The old tree has no leaves. They moss grows grey green on its branches. The brown leaves have drifted wet and soggy against the stones and the bushes. Two beautiful young girls are brushing the leaves off of a tiny marker. They kneel in the wet grass. They clean the marker and trace the words with their slender fingers. Their hair falls across their faces. They get up and they smile at eachother. Bright young , peaceful smiles. A giant of a young man stands weeping in the drizzle, looking down at his brothers resting place. His mother hugs him. They turn and smile at each other, too, comforted.
I rest against my husbands shoulders. I am looking at the tree. I am satisfied. The people are singing. They sing the old familiar songs. But my heart is at rest. I know the angels are there, just like that old man told me. Haven't I seen the truth of it? My grand baby gurgles with joy. I have courage! I feel it in my chest, in my breath, in my step. It takes a long time. It grows when we don't know it. It fills us. It is made of comfort and peace and joy and angels and old men who can see farther than the edge. I wish it for you.