The wind has blown for six consecutive days. It was not a good day to visit graves and leave flowers, but we did it anyway. We went to the cemetery of my great grandparents first. Several family members are buried there. The second cemetery was to visit my aunt that just passed a week ago. She is buried next to her husband who picked their plot on a hill because he was afraid of drowning. Finally we stopped to see my father, a man who briefly served in the Navy. Flags whipped in the wind. The scene brought other images to mind; the passing of my favorite uncle several years ago, and the memory of me.
A restless night gave way to a bright clear morning.
A discussion about desirable funeral homes and burial wishes ensued between my mother and me as we drove to church in an unfamiliar town. I swore at the voice coming from my phone for her split-second-too-late directions, while mom slammed on her imaginary brakes from the passenger side.
I entered the doors of a past life when I stepped through that entrance, a life that ended ten years ago.
My uncle Kenny led the rosary to weary family members. Sleep eluded many of us including him.
I did not kneel like everyone else. This was no protest of beliefs, merely a cranky knee.
The words rolled off my tongue in spite of the fact I can’t recall the last time I said the rosary, a prayer I associate with deep anxiety.
I could hear my father’s voice spoken through the lips of my uncle. “Hail Mary full of grace…”
I felt connected to my dad in that moment. We both made a choice to leave the church.
Hail Mary full of Grace…
My cousin held my hands in hers as she told me they found my kindergarten picture in her dad’s wallet after he passed. I was deeply touched. Tears welled up.
More words stored in a place I’m unaware of passed through my lips in the form of songs, songs I used to lead a congregation in singing. My voice cracked, no longer accustomed to the practice.
I sat in the hard wooden pew aware of my uncle in the casket, my uncle in front of me, and my dad – brothers.
I allowed the familiar rituals to wash over me, noticing how they no longer fit.
When the response included the words; I am not worthy, I allowed myself to be silent. I no longer believe that.
Cemetery means dormitory. That’s what the priest said. It was time for my uncle to rest.
I am deeply grateful for this beautiful blending of experiences, for my family being exactly who they are, and for the woman I have become.