Generally speaking I am not one who makes a practice of going to cemeteries. I recall I reluctantly went along for the ride with my family. I have special memories going to the cemetery with my grandmother as we stood over tombstones. We typically went on a Sunday afternoon. As a child I probably asked, “what’s the point”?
Today, at age 72, I see things differently. How can we pay tribute and remember our loved ones as they pass from this life? How can we honor them?
At the cemetery I watched the behavior of Grandma who looked sad as she decorated the grave area, pulled some weeds and mostly stood silently. I waited for tears, but they never came. I asked Grandma to tell me a story about the grandfather Buried below the beautiful stone. He was a grandpa I sadly would never meet.
Over and over grandma would start at the beginning of her mesmerizing storytelling explaining how she first came to America on holiday. She told of meeting her handsome 100% second generation American Swede from a lumberjack family originally from Michigan.
There must have been 50 times I recall standing over the tombstones and reflecting on human death and the sadness that comes from missing a loved one. As years went on, the visits to cemeteries became fewer. I have found it uncomfortable and have concluded I can remember and pay tribute to the dead in a variety of ways.
For instance, writing a book honoring loved ones is one different activity to honor a loved one. Before any words are written on a page so many thoughts enter and dance about in my head. I consider that time of reflection similar to standing over a grave. It is a short cut I realize and not the same.
As I visited Grandma Maja’s home town, Sollefteå Sweden, the relatives who escorted me brought me to the family cemetery.
I have concluded that since I have published Maja’s book as a tribute to her and other loved ones, I am considering making a trip to Grandma Maja’s grave.
As I wrote chapters for the book, I composed letters to Grandma in heaven. I am thinking that I might make the trip of about two hours, and bring a chair and read my personal messages. I favor spending time alone with her now recalling the investments of time she gave me.
Our granddaughter Maja (Maya) is four years old. I have given her a copy of the book dedicated to her. I am quite sure she does not comprehend the significance of sharing stories and background with her about her namesake. I plan to pass along a large notebook containing a family tree and extensive notes about her ancestors.
Some day, perhaps a trip to the cemetery to visit the grave of her great great grandmother might occur. Some day, perhaps she may go to Sweden and visit the family plot in the churchyards. Time will tell.
I think one of the greatest gifts I received from my long beautiful relationship with Grandma Maja was spending time with her. I loved her stories. Only now do details of family trees and old photos of relatives long since gone hold an interest for me.
In summary, the following reflection I found suggests that at any time, or place, remembering is a great gift to treasure.