Sunday, May 9, 2010

A solitary Sunday drive.

Today I drove over to the family cemetery. Having gone to mass yesterday afternoon, this morning was open for the trip. It was also a beautiful morning; cool, bright sunshine.

The road is out I-71 toward Lexington, but at Carrollton there's a turn into the hills along a two lane blacktop.  The road curves through shaded forrest, up into hills and across ridges.  This is the road I began traveling with my mother, grandmother and sister when I was eight and we went there to bury my father. Both my mother and father's side of the family came from Owen County and the first maternal grandfather there was John who settled on a rocky ground farm near a creek up there.

The grave was bought by my maternal grandmother when her husband died after coming in from the fields one hot July day, with a terrible headache. Before anyone could think the pain was serious he was dead of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was the first to occupy the plot.

My father followed in the second grave in 1959. My grandmother was next in 1971.  My husband was next in 1991.  My mother was the most recent in 1998.  The plot has three more empty spaces. There is one for me, my sister and her husband. As she lives in a far western state, I wonder if she will come back here.

It was to that old cemetery beside the two lane road I went this morning. The graveyard is encircled by a high iron fence with gates that are sometimes open and sometimes chained. Today they were chained and I arrived early, but I parked the truck in the short drive between the road and fence, entering through a small gate.

The space had been mowed this past week and the clippings lay drying on the grass in clumps. They never weed wack around the stones, so there are tufts of long grass sticking up thriving. Our plot is low in the place. I took off my shoes and walked down to the area where my family lies. I had brought a pink silk rose and stuck it in the ground at the foot of his grave. I know it will be destroyed when they mow again, but that's alright. Nothing lasts in a graveyard except the stones and they change with weathering.

There is a concrete wall around a rich family's plot. It's higher and overlooks ours. I stayed there in the cool air and warm sunshine for a while. My mind wanders but thinks of nothing joyful, so I'll keep it from you.

This trip is something I make around the end of May every year. One year Reggie came with me. He was the first person I brought here after Dennis died and that was ten years later. Mark, a man I was seeing for a while came once and he went walking all over the place taking pictures while I stayed near the family graves. I like this trip to be solitary. It's something that when I say, "Would you like to go with me?" I expect people to say no.

Dennis had a big family; lots of aunts, uncles, five brothers and sisters. They all have big families of children and grand children. When they marry they have big weddings and when there's a birth, lots of showers and parties. When one dies all the proper decorum is followed for the funeral and internment. But unlike my family, no one tends the graves. Often his youngest sister will say she wants to go with me. I usually wait closer to Memorial Day, so she can come. But in over eighteen years since he died, she hasn't. I'm alright with that. The time I go and am there is time I have alone with my family.

Dennis died on a Thursday night some time after midnight. When he first died I didn't cry. I told myself I had to be strong and not a blubbering out of control person. So when the funeral was planned for the following Monday, I thought; four days. I have to be strong for four days and each night I would count down the time I had to be strong. I was too and I'm sure people had their thoughts about a woman who could be dry eyed.

Afterwards, there were employees to manage and jobs to do and where I had a partner, I no longer did, so I had to be strong to keep things going. I think that was good as we had no children, so I didn't have them to live for. I worked sixteen hours seven days. It was seven months before I slowed down. But, I would allow myself to cry on the way to work and the way home; stopping in time to dry my eyes. My advice to someone in my place now days, is be a little crazy. No one, least of all that person you love, expects you to be so strong.


  1. I am sorry for all of your losses. This is a deep post, thanks for sharing.

  2. I went to "see" my mom and dad yesterday as well. Nicely written. Cheers Charlene!!

  3. I see nothing wrong with being dry-eyed and nothing wrong with being a little crazy either. Everyone deals differently, and like you said if you have people you feel you have to hold it together for then that's what you have to do. I hope I will be able to be strong when I have to deal with a big loss, but I have a feeling I'll be a mess.

    The country cemetery sounds very pretty and peaceful. I like them much more than the crowded city cemeteries.

  4. I like this post and I understand you needing the alone time. It sounds like you've experienced a lot of loss and I'm sorry to hear that.

  5. sorry for all your losses.i sometimes think i have more lost than present..but i just make more presents..

  6. To you'all.

    No one understands loss if they've not had it; and I know there is nothing unique about mine. As time passes we have more and more people we love die. I tell my friends they had to promise not to die before me.

    If they don't keep that promise I will be mad as hell at them.

  7. this post was really special---beautiful and encouraging... I hope that now --- you do take time to grieve and to feel how ever you want to feel.. so sorry for your loss.

  8. Grief will have its way. I'm a believer in allowing yourself to grieve in whatever way feels necessary.

  9. That was beautifully written.

  10. Hi, Charlene... I agree with your comment about how no one can understand a loss if they have not had it... you are so right...

    I spent time at the cemetery yesterday as well... and what you say about being a caretaker is so true... that is my job for my family... I hear the standard phrase... 'oh... mom and dad arent there.. yadda yadda yadda' Yeah.. thats probably true... but they ARE buried there... and its special to me... its what I need to do...

    Like what Secret Agent Woman says... grieve in whatever way is necessary...


  11. Nice story. I never go to my mom or dad's plots (they are buried in separate counties) with anyone. I'm always alone. It feels too weird to have someone with me in case my eyes start leaking.

  12. You have a place you'll know you'll end up in?

    Don't really like cemeteries, except for really old ones. My mother died 9 years ago and she was cremated. I still think of her almost every day - she's a part of me. But I would never ever visit her in a cemetery - she's not there or anywhere, only in my heart. Don't like to dwell on death, because it'll be my turn sooner than I'd like.

    Why do people mourn the dead, instead of the good times they had with them?

  13. Shanel: Thank you.

    Secret agent woman: It sure will.

    Sling: Thank you.

    Red Shoes: I think the grave tending is a southern thing. Unless you are a very famous person, you will not be remembered by anyone but the family you leave and the stories you have to be repeated.

    Keith: There is nothing wrong with someone seeing a tear, but I know exactly what you mean.

    Wolynski: Yes. Unless my funeral director friend decides not to do what I ask, I know exact what ground my body will lie in forever.

    I agree with the mourning. I love fresh flowers. I've told everyone if you would send me flowers when I'm dead, don't. Give them to me now!

  14. well put.

    i think i'll go listen to townes van zandt's dead flowers.

  15. Well now Billy. I like really rocking music when I'm tooling around in the truck.

    I am glad my name isn't Susie!


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