More of Will’s story will be posted soon, but this was on my mind today…
Sun spilled in through colored glass windows and danced with the bluesy melody of a piano as the player’s voice stirred my soul. Twenty years or more had ticked away, but the place where we gathered seemed unchanged while those of us who shared the day showed telltales of passing seasons. We reminisced. We shared stories. We laughed. We remembered.
Later, our group moved outside where a gentle breeze stirred the multi-colored leaves and sent soft whispers through the air. In this place, the markers of time surrounded us…literally engraved in stone. I walked past several, reading names of people I’d known since childhood.
One marker belonged to the family who owned the land we called Luick’s Hill. For years, children (and adults) gathered there each time it snowed. Bonfires, hotdogs, s’mores, and countless memories were made on that hill. A hidden and mostly unused road ran between it and the cemetery. Plenty of kids scared the crap out of each other if the sun went down before they started their walk home. I once walked a friend half-way so he wouldn’t have to go the whole way alone, but I ran all the way back until emerging huffing and puffing in the moonlight again. We giggled about how scared we’d been for years. Although it meant going close to 3 miles further, I noticed he took the longer route after that…even as a strapping teenager. When I returned as an adult, the hill still seemed huge and the road scary.
One marker was engraved with my uncle’s name. It was his wife’s life we celebrated that day. They gave me a doll I named Jimmy for Valentine’s when I was four. Jimmy has patches over his knees and neck to match my frequently skinned knees and the removal of my tonsils. I left my childhood behind many years ago, but I hung on to the doll my aunt and uncle gave me and I still laugh at everything it has survived.
The next marker held the names of my childhood neighbors although one of them isn’t resting there yet. They had air-conditioning which was a huge treat since my family just sweated out the summers. She always offered me cookies, and for a while she tried to teach me piano. I wish I’d been a better student for her, but she was always very patient with me. Her husband constantly teased and made me laugh. His gregarious nature seemed starkly contrasted to her very proper appearance, but they were incredible neighbors.
The last one I walked past was my brother’s. His children had obviously been there and decorated it for Halloween. It brought back memories of the Halloween weekend I stayed with him, went to the circus, decorated cookies, and played by the lake. He was fourteen years older than me, and while I never knew him very well as an adult, I adored him when I was a kid. His gravestone filled my heart with sadness that his children and the rest of us lost him while he was still young. But I was also filled with warmth remembering all the fun times with him.
I turned back and joined the rest of those gathered for my aunt’s burial. As we continued to laugh and reminisce over stories of Opal’s life, I realized that while everyone there with a marker was missed, they continued to make the rest of us laugh and share memories. Most of all, they silently reminded us to live while the fire of life still flickers.