Friday, December 31, 2010

Stand-in Father

Yesterday I visited a cemetery near the home I had sold two Christmases back. During my eight years as a resident in the neighborhood, I probably walked through that cemetery at least once a month. Even in winter months, sometimes under falling snow, I paced the pathways.

When my father died at age 90 in his New Orleans home, I returned from his burial to a New England fall and winter.

In my upbringing I had gotten to watch my mother grieve the death of her own mother. The drives to the New Orleans cemetery with my parents had been almost weekly at first. I received lessons in what people looked like when all they could do was place their hands on the mausoleum wall and whisper, "Mama..." I learned that rhythm and sound of grieving from the French Louisiana culture in which I grew up.

What would I do after the death of my New Orleans father if I was fifteen-hundred miles away from the cemetery where he was buried?

I found a grave to visit in that New England cemetery.

Yesterday I drove again to the grave where I had mourned my father in 2001 and 2002. I parked the car and rolled down the window as I had done that first winter. Fresh cold air on my face again, I recalled the determination with which I had focused on this man's gravestone back then. Deceased in 1964, he has no wife buried beside him. When Easter came in 2002, I put a pot of daffodils by his stone. I sometimes wonder if there was family that had come while the flowers were there, puzzled at this gesture by someone unknown.

What my sudden visit to this cemetery accomplished for me yesterday was a calming at the close of the year. It brought a reminder of the earnest pleading for guidance I had made on these walkways over the years. It was important to experience again within this landscape the affirmation I had found for the journeys I keep undertaking in my life.

And it is good to have a father nearby.


Ur-spo said...

that was stunning; thank you for this
may 2011 be well for you.

John said...

Thanks for your steady reading and generous comments.

Happy New Year!