An oxymoron? I don’t think so. I spend a fair amount of time in cemeteries, and the simple truth is some are beautiful, some not so much. It has to do with how they are cared for, whether or not the congregation they belong to is active and vital, whether people visit regularly. A quiet moment in the cemetery, with the sun shining, and a breeze gently blowing, surrounded by the sense of presence, history, life, loss, memory – that is a sacred moment.
I was privileged to witness one such moment a few days ago. I arrived at the cemetery with our Cantor, and together we waited for a funeral procession to arrive for the burial service. A young (middle aged? – what is young anymore?) man was sitting in the grass by a gravestone, barefoot, in shorts, with the sun shining down, his hand lightly resting on the stone by his side. He sat there for a time, in a space between this world and the next. He softly spoke, and perhaps also listened. A reverie of past and present, of absence and presence.
We approached him to let him know the funeral procession would soon arrive. The burial was near the stone he was visiting. He shook his head, as if coming out of a dream, stepping back into the concrete reality of our world and this moment. His mother, now gone ten years. He smiled in the sunshine remembering life and not loss, laughter and blessing and the grace of connections that can never be severed.
We exchanged a few words before he climbed into his car and drove away. He carried with him a sense of peace, or perhaps equanimity is the better word. Before long he will be back.