But where I am going with that is to say that until my mother died, I never particularly concerned myself with maintaining the family headstone, which is in Oklahoma City. Way back in the day, my grandfather bought a 6 person lot and at this point, five plots have been filled. But when it came to putting out flowers and the like, not only was it not my job, I simply didn’t care. They were dead, therefore, they didn’t care, was my reasoning. Life is for the living, after all. As long as the lawn was mowed it was fine, blah, blah, blah. Besides, Mom did that stuff. Moreover, when Mom died, I was still living in Virginia and it is not like I could do very much about the cemetery, anyway. But the real reason I didn’t do anything was because I didn’t care. It is just a rock, after all.
So a week or so ago, I swung by the cemetery to pay my respects. This is not new. When I lived in town, I used to go by, regularly. Sometimes I would breeze in and out with no more emotional reaction than if I was ordering a cheeseburger from the local drive-through (in Oklahoma, that would be Sonic, preferably – although that might not be a good example when you consider how hungry I get, at times). Other times, I would stand and bawl. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason for it and I gave up trying to understand why that is so, decades ago.
But last week, as I stood there and looked at the grave, I suddenly felt the weight of being the oldest girl and the oldest family member with the attendant responsibilities. I stood there at that stone and it positively chastised me for not putting out some spring flowers. Honestly, I found myself muttering, “Okay, OKAY!!!” to no one in particular. So I drove home and since then have twice wakened in the night thinking about graveyard flowers. Not in a resentful way, but in a manner akin to how I think about quilt designing. “Peonies would be nice … no, my grandmother liked Irises so she would appreciate those this time of year. But the Oklahoma sun would bake them so maybe I should set out something yellow so if it fades, it won’t look too bad before I can swap it out. Yeah, yellow would be nice - Mom loved daisies and Debbie (my sister) loved yellow roses…” I was having those sorts of thoughts.
I am not sure why, but all of a sudden, with no warning, I went from not even considering doing such a thing to being on a mission that was, actually, a labor of love.
So, yesterday, after going out to vote in my first election since moving back home, I saw where Hobby Lobby had a half price off sale on artificial flowers and that was as good an excuse as any to shop there. I wandered through, picked at the flowers (looking for the ones that were: 1) pretty; 2) sturdy; 3) light colored to not immediately look tacky if the faded in the sun; and 4) would stand up to the Oklahoma wind. It took awhile but I found several that appealed to me.
Without planning to, I wandered into the area of Hobby Lobby where they keep the artificial flowers intended to go in your home. Good Lord. Have you seen them? They are GORGEOUS. Some look exactly like dried flowers. Maybe they are dried flowers. And some look so fresh and real you’d swear that, but for the lack of aroma, you just picked them from the earth. When did they start making stuff like this?? I got lost in that section of the store for, I kid you not, almost two hours. It was very similar to how I feel when I am picking out fabrics. I loaded up a small fortune’s worth in my cart but before I could pay for them, a kind clerk whispered that they go on sale for half price, next week.
This is Oklahoma, after all.
What a sweetie.
So I abandoned the idea of buying flowers for the house (until next week).
After I left Hobby Lobby, I drove over to the cemetery and shoved in the flowers.
Never let it be said that I am not sentimental.
While I was there, I saw the most precious arrangement for a little baby girl.
The little touches just slayed me. For example, the angel wings were a little girl's gloves - maybe this little girl's. And look at the handprints of the parents.
Daddy's Little Girl. Oh God. I feel so bad for them.
The practical side of me wonders if they will maintain it in the years to come. This is really a high maintenance type of monument. And I wonder if the parents/family members will end up suffering horrible pangs of guilt over the years if they cut back on the decorations, allow them to grow a bit sloppy, or otherwise decide to scale back. But I could tell that putting this together, at this point in time, gave them perhaps the only comfort they could find, god love them.
I spent more time standing in prayer at this site than I did at my own family’s grave. After a moment's hesitation that I shouldn't touch something so clearly precious to them, I went ahead and straightened some of the items, tucked in the notes so they wouldn’t blow away so easily, and walked away feeling both sad that that family hurts, and warm to recognize the love that must have existed in that family. I hope they are doing okay. I strongly suspect that I am not the only impromptu visitor who has straightened things up and said a little prayer. Their grief is new. Please remember them in your prayers.
Not far from the little girl’s grave was the grave of a young man, who apparently died when he was about 21. I lost a brother at that age and remember well the shock of a vibrant young soul suddenly just... gone. They had laid a skateboard and a variety of other things at the site in his memory. I am sure they feel the loss as a hole in their hearts, every day.
I was struck that someone even left car keys and they hadn’t been molested. Later, I mentioned to my husband that people tend to respect the dead. He said that if it was widely known where the car that went with those keys was, those keys would be history.
And here is a grave that I always visit. Always.
Anyway, this kind soul listened to me tell him how much I missed my sister and how my family was mad at me and how much I loved my boyfriend and how they didn’t approve. I didn’t tell him I was pregnant but suspect he had figured it out. After hearing me out, he stepped aside to show me the date on the headstone. He was 8 years older than his late wife and they’d married when she was 16 years old. They’d been happily married more than fifty years. And he said, ‘The age difference never made the slightest bit of difference! We never even noticed it.”
To this day, I think that man was angel sent to offer me comfort.
So I always looked for Mr. Moore when I went back to the cemetery but never saw him, again. For years, I would see fresh flowers on the grave but then a few years went by with no flowers, then I saw where he had passed in 1990. He was 96 years old at the time of his death. Maybe I should remember him with flowers the next time I am out there.
We all like to think that people can make a difference with a simple kind word or gesture but it is pretty rare. Mr. Moore appeared at the right time and said the right words to truly help a young girl. I expect he never knew that he made such a difference in a stranger’s life – but he did.
Thank you, Mr. Moore.
So when I got home from the cemetery, Husband announced that he had been reading up on bluebird houses, including standard lore regarding what the bluebirds were looking for in a house. He said that I should look it up.
Thankfully, the Prednisone is not really causing me much emotional upheaval at this point - but that was a bit irritating.
I counted to five and told him I already have done my research, which is why I had such rigid ideas on how the house should be set up. He glossed over all that. Instead, he said he “knew” I was not going to be happy unless that new birdhouse faced east (never admitting that it was a good idea!) – so he’d shifted it around.
Sometimes I don’t know whether to hug him or roll my eyes at him so I just smiled and said, “Thank you, dear.”
Truly, I am a saint.
While I am at it, here are a few photos:
The darling little church where I cast my vote:
Pearl is quite sleepy:
That Evelyn is sassy!
Penny, Evelyn and Pearl