Today I had a strong urge to visit someone’s grave. She was a coworker who I worked with for about five years. She retired a year or two ago, and passed away in 2013. We shared an enjoyment of photography, and because we knew each other’s politics, we avoided discussions of that sort. She was a kind woman, always quick with a smile and a laugh. She liked to tell stories of her family and vacations. She was a hard worker, and knew how to care for all of the little details that keep a lab running. She was happy to teach what she knew, and taught me a lot of what I know about this place.
I don’t know where she’s buried, and as I toyed with the idea of seeking out her grave, reality began to intrude. I know that nothing exists after death. I will return to earth and sky and stardust, as did my coworker, and so I mused over this strong desire to visit “her”. I flipped through the logic: I don’t care about visiting her physical body – because eww. I don’t really want to drive a gazillion miles to find the physical cemetery in which she’s buried. I want to remember her contributions, the happiness that she brought me. I want to grieve that she won’t contribute anything new, and I want to mourn that I no longer have this particular source of inspiration physically present in my life. In short, I miss her.
Going to her final “resting place” – seeing the literal and figurative concreteness of her headstone seems like a good way to put firmly in my mind that she is gone, and standing in front of a grave perhaps gives me permission to indulge in a moment of reflection, joy and sorrow. Where else do we have to celebrate our dead after the initial ceremonies, the potlucks and goodbyes? Only among those who shared the experience of knowing them, or in our own minds – in those moments of quiet and stillness that come too few and far between.
As a sort of related-aside: Cemeteries and burial grounds take up a lot of space on this planet. This is a funny thing to one who sees nothing inherently special in flesh and bones not connected by consciousness. As I was about to post this, I saw a link on Facebook about cool things to do with your body when you’re dead. I think I’d like to be a coral reef.