Last Saturday we went out to the old church cemetery, where both mine and Lorna's families are buried. Usually, as I go about planting flowers about the graves, Lorna walks around, pausing at each gravesite for a few minutes, remembering. Of course this tends to produce a few quiet tears. The cemetery contains both sets of our parents, grandparents, two of my brothers, and most recently, Lorna's niece.
After planting all our gravesites, I took a stroll through the markers. In the center, the old stones are 19th century, weathered and covered with lichens, but I still know most of the family names. When my daughter was young, she thought this was a terribly creepy place. I slowly looped around toward the perimeter and the monuments became more recent until I knew most of the people resting beneath the stones. They were my friends or family. Creepy or not, this is as close to pure "home" for me, as any place on earth.
I suppose as I thought about the folks that have passed on, I should have been thinking heavy thoughts, maybe with hymns softly on my lips. No, I had the words and tunes of Billy Joe Shaver running through my head.
Ride me down easy, Lord, ride me on down
Leave word in the dust where I lay
Say, I'm easy come, and easy go , and easy to love when I stay.
The forest grows around my door now
And I am dreaming of a meadow
Where I may lie in frosty sunlight
Far between the earth's gray shadow
and the more upbeat:
Gonna fly away singin', I'm gonna fly
Gonna wrap my new wings 'round
Few feathered things in that free feelin' sky
Gonna reach a new heaven, higher than high
When I get my wings, hey, I'm gonna fly.
Billy Joe's easier than dealing with the old hymns. Amazing Grace gets harder every time. Like I told a friend, I think grief is cummulative. Every time I hear the song, it brings back the all the sadness of all the past funerals. It's grief compounded. It's tough getting older.