Posted by Debra Solomon Baker on November 5, 2011
Here I stroll down a gravel path on an afternoon of crisp fall colors, of trees, some naked with waving branches, others, still half-dressed in their reds and their oranges and their greens. I am here, with a friend who knows to ask questions, or to not, when I tell her about some argument, or about this fear, or that misunderstanding. It is the afternoon of a women’s retreat, a spiritual retreat, a retreat to which I nearly said, no thank you, nearly balking because of feeling too everything. Introverted. Overwhelmed. Afraid.
But here I am with my friend and we are walking on this gravel path, dodging these giant balls that we think may be walnuts but neither of us, not she, the rabbi, nor I, the English teacher, really know what the heck they are. Except big. And in our way. Bullying our ankles.
We spot a cemetery. Cold Water Cemetery, where, the plaque says, veterans from seven wars are buried.
And together we walk, snapping twigs with our tennis shoes, wondering about this person buried here and that person buried there, and she says, oh, look, look there, those stones have little bears or are they sheep, on them, and we giggle, until we realize that these are the stones for the children.
There is Ira R, son of Wm and M.J Patterson, Born March 3, 1856. When did he die? That part? It is cracked off, eroded, poof, gone.
And there is Lucy B Patterson, born on July 2, 1850, dead nineteen days later, and there, right there, next to her, is her sister, Amanda V. Patterson, who lived to be just eight.
I wonder about Amanda and Lucy, and why, and how, they died. I imagine a mother and a father, stained with grief once, then twice.
Then we see it. There is a cross, a crudely constructed cross, made from two sticks tied with twine, that has been delicately balanced against this stone for this little girl, for Amanda. Who still cares for her, still tends to her, still visits her here, in this spot, 161 years away? Who brings her a cross? We do not know.
I shift to my own Sarah, back home, nine years old, so very alive with her smile and her squeaky violin, and her stories that go on too long, and how, sometimes, she stands on her head, bursting with silliness, as she waits for her mommy, for me, to tuck her in at night, to sing the words of her special song. “You are my beautiful Sarah, beautiful Sarah I love…”
And I know that I’m where I should be, on this Saturday afternoon, visiting an ancient graveyard, listening with my friend to the crunching of autumn.
Reminding ourselves to breathe.