Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I See Dead People...

I'd hoped to get together with my sister this week when we both headed to northwest Iowa to visit our parents' graves. Unfortunately, her schedule didn't accommodate our plans. I hope we can get together later, but whether I met the living, I still wanted to visit the abode of the dead. Yeah, the cemetery.

As I mentioned, I've not been to the graves since my mom died because I know they aren't there. Their spirits are elsewhere even if their ashes are buried there, but for some reason I've felt called this year. I tried to visit a couple of years ago and was prevented by feet and I do mean FEET of snow covering the graveyard gates.

As my need to visit has grown, I keep wondering what it is that makes people commemorate the resting place of the dead. Why we feel it necessary to make pilgrimages. I haven't come up with anything overarching and profound for the world at large.

Of course I come from one of those bizarre families that take pictures of the deceased to add to the photo album and send snapshots of themselves next to their own gravestones to family members. No, really. I swear. One of my aunts did this. there is a picture of my aunt and her daughter beside my aunt's gravestone. This kind of planning ahead is a touch extreme in my personal opinion. So maybe this appeal of the graveyard makes sense for me. Even so, I've never understood the morbid fascination my family has with taking pictures of a dead person. I almost expect some voiceover guy to talk about "documenting the dead," like we just have to verify they are really gone or something. I love 'em but they're weird.

Of course I know that part of my need to visit the cemetery is the "they" thing. I want "them" to know my parents were loved by putting ornamentation on the graves. Now, I have no idea who "they" are, nor do "they" really care about whether my parents' graves have flowers on them. Still "they" linger in my mind.

At least I know where I got the dreaded "they" thing from. My mom. The house had to be clean in case "they" stopped by. What would "they" say if the children ran around the neighborhood in filthy clothes. Heck, what did I know or care about it at 8 years old.

I'm glad I went though. I left some baggage behind on the trip because I released some of my anger at my grandparents and acknowledged my gratitude to my great aunt and uncle. The trip helped me revisit my roots too. There were a LOT of stones in that graveyard that had my last name on them. I may not have known a good many of my relatives, but it was an odd sort of touchstone, milestone, and just stone-stone. I guess I had fun. Hey, I never said I was normal.

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