17 May 2006

Going to See the Stones

Perhaps it was just a couple of days after Mother's Day, but the Jewish cemetery up at Keele & Wilson seemed to have more stones than ever crowning the headstones. Staring across the rows, most of the headstones were adorned with what seemed to be bouquets of often colourful pebbles, stones, and large rocks. My Uncle Sol's headstone had only a couple small rocks on it, and I felt immediately guilty for not bringing him one.

My brother Owen's headstone had about a dozen stones. That amazes me. Who are these people, these friends of my brothers, perhaps children he coached in his decade volunteering with the local little leagues. I have no contact with my brother's friends, but they come to the cemetery and they think about him. They remember him, and likely have more memories than I do. In the drizzling rain, I stood at the foot of Owen's grave and spoke to him aloud. It wasn't my usual perfunctory wishes and regrets, but a long talk about our life together, about his life, about the peace I hope he's having. I placed on of the stones from the beach at New Denver on his headstone.

At my parents joint headstone, I stood for about a half hour. There were always glad to get a longer visit, so I obliged them. Talking with them is both enormously sad but also, sometimes, incredibly cathartic. I caught them up on what's happening, about their niece's wedding the other week, about my hopes, my memories, I asked for their forgiveness, I asked for their guidance, and I hope that sometime they were now in each other's arms. I put two stones from the Slocan Lake beach on their headstones.

I believe neither in god nor an afterlife. So what's the meaning of talking to those who have died, of asking for their help, of hoping that they are comfortable now? I talked later in the day with Tom Walmsley, who is, surprisingly, a pretty religious guy. He said it made sense that I would talk to my dead parents, that I might ask them for guidance. I admitted that on some level I hoped that during my sleep they might come to me in a dream and have wise things to say.

Again, I noticed something in that cemetery I don't believe I'd ever noticed before. Whereas most people place fist-sized rocks on the headstones, a few people were hoisting cantaloupe-size or even water-melon-size rocks onto the bevelled tops of their loved-ones' headstones. Was this a status thing? Or the feeling that the intensity of one's love for their deceased is commensurate with the size of the stone offered?

In front of my brother's headstone, as I've likely mentioned before, is a blue baseball hat from the team he coached. One of his little-league players placed it there, on the grave's marker before there was even a headstone, and still it is there. It's beginning to look like mulch, though; the last six years has done this do it. I have one clean, new cap at home from Owen's league, and I'm waiting for the right moment to replace it. Maybe I'll even gather those friends together, those friends who bring rocks, and make some kind of ceremony out of it. That would be a nice thing to do.

Over and out.


At May 20, 2006 1:29 am , Blogger Linda Crosfield said...

I love that you brought stones from Slocan Lake home with you. Is putting stones on a headstone a Jewish thing?

Just last week I was up in the Nelson cemetery, having a good old hobnob with my dad, so I chuckled to myself reading about you standing there talking to your loved ones. Why not? I say.


At May 21, 2006 9:21 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, it makes no rational sense, but i too talk to my mom, who died just two months ago i even give her a little hell sometimes and she agrees with the reasons why. mostly i get these very close flashes of one of her gestures, or her smile. my half sister talks to her deceased dad all the time. one of my high school friends talks to hers a lot of the time too and sees him across the street from her house, formerly his and her mom's house. these things are hard to believe unless they're happening to you, but they're not paranormal experiences. i think ted berrigan was right about what happens when someone dies..that they move from your outside life to the inside.

At July 06, 2009 6:51 am , Anonymous Headstones said...

I love to see sentiments like this, headstones are one of the best sentiments a family can make, and taking good care of our cemeteries should also been on our mind as l have seen some headstones smashed by vandals and was appalled.


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