Saturday, December 11, 2010

More About Dead People

I'm really not obsessing on death. It just so happened that I made a quick trip to Austin yesterday and I passed the cemetery where my parents are buried. It had been a while since I'd stopped in there and I had my camera along. It's the season of advent and so there's something about death and hope in these sorts of stops and, I guess, in wanting to take a picture of the headstones. Death and hope . . . are there really any other themes?

Anyway, so I have these few pictures of the headstones. Like my feelings about touching a dead body from my last post, I find cemetery visits to be somewhere akin to reminding myself that there is physical evidence of these people, of the memories I have of them. On top of that, most of the people I know or am around these days never had an opportunity to meet my parents. As silly as it sounds, these pictures are some sort of evidence that I am not the free-floating element that I may appear to be. I have antecedents.So the above is the headstone of my parents. And my shoe. I really was trying not to get my foot in the picture, but there it is anyway. Okay, evidence of me as well as my parents.

Above are closeups of Mama and Daddy's individual sides. It's a little shocking to see how long ago it was that they died. When I turned 40, I remember thinking what had happened in the last decade and I remembered I was 30 when Mama died and I couldn't quite make sense of the fact that she'd been dead for a quarter of my life. I'm now 47, so she's now been dead for over a third of my life. And Daddy died when I was 25. In 3 years, he'll have been dead for half my life. It's simple math and the passage of time, but it all seems unlikely that they would be absent for such large chunks of my life. I guess they really aren't. I dream about them regularly, even still.

The above picture is to give some idea (if the gate picture didn't) that this cemetery is out in the country. There's not a building in sight. This shot also gives my parent's wedding date. All Saints Day, 1939.

And if you still don't believe this is out in the country . . .

Those are a few head of cattle just on the other side of the cemetery fence. I find this exceedingly appropriate. We raised cattle on on our farm and I think Mama and Daddy both enjoyed them, but I think Mama especially loved her cows. When Daddy died, Mama sold all the cattle---a decision she and Daddy had made before he died, so she didn't have to fool with feeding cattle by herself. One of my brothers, Glen, bought most of the cattle and kept them on the farm, so Mama saw them all the time anyway. Glen came out to the farm to take care of them, but Mama was the one telling him which cow was about to calf and things like that. When Glen had calves old enough to sell, Mama bought some of them, so she could have her own cattle again. Glen was coming out to feed his, so he could help with hers, and she felt better knowing that some of the cattle she was watching were actually hers again. I sort of laughed at her and she laughed with me. But if you love cattle, what are you going to do?

None of this is particularly theological or religious. It's all rather sentimental, really. It makes little difference, theologically, if Mama is buried near where cattle graze (and if she were able to watch them, it would make her crazy that they weren't hers, so it's just as well that she can't) and having a gravestone to visit isn't any more certain hope of resurrection than ashes scattered on a lake. This is my experience, though, and even if some of my musings on it are fanciful . . . well, even religious/theological musings can be a little whimsical now and then.

Sometimes, I just like an excuse to talk about my parents.