It’s been nearly two years since I last visited my grandparents (July 30, 2010, to be precise). I was reminded of this fact by the recent events in my husband’s family, and also through re-reading a post I wrote on The Cauldron from August 1, 2010.
I have not done my duty by my grandparents – they’re important to me and deserve more recognition and acknowledgement. To rectify this, I have a two-pronged plan for the upcoming weekend:
- Visit both sets of grandparents
- Implement the house shrine I’ve been planning for my ancestors
In addition, below is the post I mentioned earlier. It was always intended for the blogosphere.
Last Friday I went to visit the graves of both sets of my grandparents.
Two years passed since I’d been to the cemetery where my mother’s parents rest, and longer since I’d been to visit my father’s parents. Neither pair are buried more than 40 minutes from my home…yet it took a series of occurrences lined up in a particular way to set my trip in motion.
And so, I set off armed with a general knowledge of where the cemeteries were, but not remembering the location of the actual grave sites.
The contrast between the places is striking. My father’s parents are buried in a Quaker cemetery with a Meetinghouse close by. The grounds are old, the headstones (many of them moss covered) are weathered, and many of the graves include plantings that are lovingly tended by family. Birds sing from the ancient trees that shade the grounds. The sense of continuity of the generations is palpable.
My mother’s parents, on the other hand, are buried in a memorial park with close-mown grass, few headstones (most graves are marked by bronze markers flat against the ground), and too many rules about what can and cannot be placed grave-side…and how long it can stay there. A tower stands in the middle of the park and bells play non-denominational hymns non-stop. In short, it’s a sanitized kitschy version of what some businessman thought people wanted.
To find my father’s parents, a groundskeeper looked through binders full of paper records and then walked me to their graves. On the walk, he told me an anecdote about my great-uncle (also buried there) planting zoysia grass by his parents’ graves (also there) that the groundskeeper still cannot keep under control.
To find my mother’s parents, an administrator in the park office looked up their names in a computerized database, found the section in which they are buried, and gave me a map on which he drew an X. I found the location with no problem and was able to park my car directly across from it.
I spent some time at each site, thinking about how each person touched my life, and how they helped create the person that I am. I reminisced, and shed some tears. I shared a drink of water with each of them and, resting my hand on their markers, told them how much I love and miss them. And then, I drove home.
Despite the “worlds-apart” differences between the cemeteries, my feelings were the same in both locations. I felt my connection through my parents to my grandparents, and beyond them to my great-grandparents and on through space and time until it seemed as if I could trace my lineage all the way back to the beginning. The trappings, or lack thereof, ultimately made little difference and didn’t affect the way I honored my family members.
In thinking about this later, the fact that my surroundings didn’t impact my connection is startling. I’m easily distracted. Atmosphere matters to me. I’ve always needed the trappings, the tools, the just-so ritual. Spirituality on the fly never worked for me. And yet…this time it came so easily.
Have I changed? Have I found the little corner of myself that is able to block out the distractions and draw closer to the Universe? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I plan to continue visiting both sites on a routine basis and to set up a shrine to honor my grandparents when I cannot go to them.