Went on another outing in a cemetery this weekend, to look up graves for my Dad's Find A Grave website. Me, Hux, my Dad, the girls, as well as another little girl from the neighborhood. Gorgeous day, cut unfortunately short when all the kids started arguing and we had to go home (that youthful-energy-in the-face-of-death thing I wrote of before cuts both ways).
Outwardly, cemeteries seem to be an march of tombstones with little variation, little room for individuality beyond the names and dates, but time and attention reveal this to be false. Gravestones made of marble, of granite, of concrete, even of wood (found three of those, badly worn, all details long faded). Varying amounts of aging and wear, depending on the type of stone, the age. Symbols abound for Freemasons and Oddfellows. Christian Crosses, praying hands. Mentions of various wars (the Mexican American War the oldest I could find). Engraved pictures of favorite activities of the deceased, mostly fishing and hunting. Quotes, mostly biblical, with a few poems thrown in (Frost's "miles to go before I sleep"), a few personal quotes. Flowers, teddy bears, photos, painted rocks left on the cold earth with love, sorrow, regret, longing. Several had tinsel and Christmas ornaments; one was outlined with ornaments and tinsel and had a large plastic candy cane laid in the center.
The girls are particularly interested in the graves of infants. They've learned to do the math, subtracting the birth date from the death date, and will stand at the gravesites and wonder silently at the little girl who dies at the age of two, the boy who died a month after his birth. You watch them trying to grasp at the magnitude of it all.
Below is a song - ignore the video and just listen - that runs through the closing credits of the Coens' True Grit. I downloaded it immediately after coming home from the theater, and it choked me up the first several times I listened to it. I know the hymn from way back, from my Baptist upbringing. Now, of course, it reminds me of that white clapboard Baptist church in southeastern Oklahoma, that hard red clay, those resolute wildflowers scattered among the stones.