Tom stands at the grave of his mother-in-law. It’s next to the graves of her parents, his wife’s grandparents.
He stops near the grave of his father-in-law. It’s at another cemetery. It’s next to the grave of his wife’s step-mother. He doesn’t walk all the way to the grave. It’s a long walk, and the walker doesn’t glide well in the grass.
He visits the grave of his uncle, who married his mother years after his father died. He wanders a bit, looking at the stones bearing names of long-gone neighbors from a neighborhood he moved from 6 decades earlier. But hasn’t really left.
He visits the graves of his grandparents, his parents, and his wife. He looks at the stone that has his own name, with a blank for the ending date. It’s the only blank in a row of six names, five graves.
He doesn’t spend long at any of the four cemeteries. It doesn’t take long to honor those who are gone. It’s more the fact of noticing, the simple remembering.
It’s hard to stop with our anxiety about the future to remember that other people lived and worked and played and worried and prayed before us. And for us.
It’s not that those people were perfect. Tom is capable of identifying imperfections in the dashes between the dates on the stones. But that’s part of the value of remembering. When I stop and consider the sheer humanity of Peter and Paul, David and Moses, Mary and Eve, Arnold and John, it’s easier for me to acknowledge that I may survive my sheer humanity, too.
For a moment today, I’d encourage stopping and noticing and remembering. I will. As I walk through the hospital, visiting people who may be visited next Memorial Day, I’ll try to help them, and me, be better remembered.