I’m not much for cemetery visiting and grave decorating. And I’m an introvert, so Memorial Day crowds do nothing for me. In general, if I’m going to go to a cemetery, it’ll be some other day, and usually in the morning, when things are quiet, and you’re not in any danger of running into some grieving family member.
I go for the stories, and there are plenty of them. My great-great grandfather, who would not let my grandmother climb on the table. The old farmer who died, refusing to tell the burglars where the money was. (If, in fact, there was any money. That’s a topic of contention.) The father who personally buried seven children, that summer smallpox hit. The neighbors knew he was being punished for his sins–and told him so–but they still believed in germs just enough that they were scared to help bury his kids.
All those private sufferings.
And then, there’s the other kind of grave. The news-of-the-day, you’d probably recognize the name grave. Public suffering that’s died down, a little.
The only grave I went to on purpose today was that kind of grave. The prone-to-vandalism, and the cemetery won’t tell you where it is grave.
I happen to know the family. And, if I happen to be in the area, I’ll take a second to look. To check for damage. We’re not close anymore–I don’t go to see them, but if something is wrong, I’d still like to get it fixed before they see it. I’m just out walking, anyway.
The grave is unobtrusive, and well maintained. Someone–I doubt it’s anyone in the family–left a flower there.
I know a few of the private stories. Enough to make the person seem weirdly small and fragile, even against the backdrop of the public stories. Human. Valuable. Complex.