Last week Barry asked if I might ride with him to a couple of local cemeteries. He wanted to take Memorial Day pictures for his job at the newspaper.
Sure, I said. Let me grab my camera, too.
First we drove to the Aura Cemetery. Then we motored on over to the Pequaming Cemetery. The sun shone, a few clouds danced above, temperatures felt warm. A beautiful spring day in the Upper Peninsula.
My mood felt light and happy. A good day to be alive.
Cemeteries can be fascinating, don’t you think? Especially the old ones, with crumbling massive moss-decorated stones. Each headstone tells the story of a life. We know little about these elders, these grandmas and grandpas, except maybe their birth and death dates. We don’t know about their personalities, their dreams, their desires, the mistakes they made, their gifts.
We know practically nothing about the baby who died at less than a year, or the nine year old, or the 30 year old man. We must rely on imagination to fill in the gaps. You died in childbirth, you died singing Happy Birthday to your grandson, you died in your sleep. You, you and you died of a virus that swept across the country like a raging storm taking strong and weak alike. You didn’t believe the virus would take you and maybe it didn’t. But I have seen a gravestone that pronounced the deaths of an entire family, every single one of them. The neighbors, untouched by fate or genes or luck, dug the many graves.
I like looking at the religious symbols and pictures and statues near the graves. They tell stories of faith and love and grace. Something larger than viruses and famines and logging accidents and old age. Something that provides our human fallibility with hope and calm and even joy.
A heart in the center of us that celebrates mercy in the midst of a world where we’re all designed to die.
This is not an entirely cheerful post. I have experienced a very rough three days. On Thursday my happiness bubble simply burst. I awoke sad about so many things. Death, yes. Virus, yes. But also desperately sad about so many people fighting and arguing and carrying on.
Part of me suddenly felt furious with family and friends who had their own differing opinions–and loudly proclaimed them on Facebook. A woman I like very much offered her opinion that everyone wearing a mask in the grocery store was afraid. She said no one met her eyes; the mask wearers were living frightened lives.
Afraid? Afraid? I bubbled up like a lava lamp, ready to explode through the glass. “I am wearing a mask because I LOVE humanity. Because I am taking this virus seriously. Because it’s about protecting the weak, the vulnerable, those with lowered immunity. I am not wearing a mask because I am afraid!” (But what if a person is afraid? Why should they be shamed? There is so much unconscious fear in those who do not wear masks–fear of appearing vulnerable, fear of feeling fear itself.)
I wear the mask as a symbol of love, of spirit, of connection to my fellow humans.
Some day, when it feels right in my gut, when the statistics show a decline, I will take off the mask. Both actions can be seen as acts of love.
Then I walked into the Holiday gas station in L’Anse. The cashiers wore masks but not a single other person–all fifteen of them–wore a mask except for me. I suddenly felt like a Muslim woman in hijab. A minority. Perhaps even judged and labeled.
I walked back to the car and burst into tears. Hot, blinding tears. I cried most of the way up to Houghton, pulling over twice to wipe eyes and blow nose. Tears for me. Tears for you. Tears for the almost 100,000 Coronavirus graves in the United States in less than three months. Tears for those who don’t believe the statistics. Tears for those with conspiracy theories. Tears for all of us who have had our world blown wide open into a place where an invisible virus picks and chooses its next host or hostess.
Three days of emotional pain followed this crying storm. My daughter and I decided to take a vacation off Facebook until at least next Tuesday. I couldn’t see left or right. Couldn’t make my way back to center. Couldn’t find faith, the larger picture, the Higher Self, whatever you want to call it.
Until this morning.
This morning I awoke feeling calm. Hopeful. Compassionate toward those who think and feel differently. As if the emotional storm cleared away old debris. As if it allowed more love to surface.
I don’t know if it will last. Wondering if you’ve experienced any emotional storms and how you’re faring these days? Wondering if you’ve been able to circle through the pain back into peace and greater love? And if not–mercy on us humans. It can be so very hard to be human some days, can it not?