Departed this life …
The headstones stood higgledy-piggledy in the small overgrown graveyard. If there had ever been any intention to maintain this resting place, this home to the dead, this body parking lot, it’s been long dissipated. The only constant is the sound of the Atlantic just over the hill; on this still day, a gentle murmur. Perhaps a prayer.
Birth and death dates recorded. Proof of mortality. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be here screwing up my eyes to read the fading wording on these goodbye-slabs, these testimonial tombstones, these posthumous letters to the dearly departed saying the words unsaid to the living: loving, loyal, faithful; saying the words too late.
Sacred to the memory of…
This year I used up my threescore years and ten. I’m now on notice. I take courage from some of the information on the headstones – no, not information – data – it’s data now in the twenty first century, data – aged seventy five, aged eighty. I read greedily. But I know it’s not going to be long before I feel the tap on the shoulder, dance with the Grim Reaper, make my way across the river Lethe.
Rest in peace, mother of, son of…
I ask whether the fathers, sons, mothers and daughters who reside/resided – dust-to-dust – here had had good lives. Had they loved well, had they been loved well? Had they done their duty to their family, friends, community? Had they been faithful in mind and body and soul? Had they fought for king and country, right or wrong? Had they stood up to the tyranny of the bad man? Had they suffered? Had they despaired? What would they have changed?
Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
The voices rise up from under the soil in answer, “You’re really asking about yourself, aren’t you? You’re projecting. The question really is: ‘Have you done all these things, been all this things? What would you have changed?’”
And I think about my life. Mainly about the people I have loved, some well, and some badly. And the people who may have loved me. How would they answer these questions about me? What would they be writing on my gravestone, what would they be saying to St Peter, what would be my testimonial?
I guess it’s too late now. It’ll soon be over. It won’t be long before the coffin maker, the grave digger and the stone mason get a work sheet bearing my name. Not recycled. Not reused. Landfill!