To be remembered is our greatest hope when we die, whether that remembrance is due to our achievements or just because we are loved. The need to be remembered is never clearer than when strolling among the dead. Weaving in and out of cemetery stones, feet falling softly among the dearly departed, it is impossible not to remember them and wonder who they were. I love the idle peace of tracing script with fingertips and wondering how the dash between two numbers was spent.
I recently found myself among the dead in a number of cemeteries, photographing epitaphs and statuary, details of shells and flowers and leaves curving against monuments. When I looked at the pictures later, two faces emerged.
Head in hands, sorrow holds vigil over the graves of those gone too soon. Those who weren't ready to go, or placed there by those who weren't ready to let them leave. Over time, weather either shadows them, making them more stark and desperate. Or it erodes the tension and leaves a smoother, reluctantly accepting visage in its wake. Who could blame these anguished faces for their permanent mourning of what was lost? I looked into their faces and saw myself, the lines wearily etched into stone, marble - cold and unyielding. I saw their downcast eyes, knowing they had cried from heartbreak, from loneliness, from desperately wanting to change the unchangeable. I wanted to lean against them and give them my mourning, to let my agony over losing Kudzu fall into smooth white arms.
Serenely, they stand or kneel over the bodies of those gone before us, hands clasped in devoted prayer. Some of them bow reverently; others tip faces upward toward the light. Their faces are bathed in an ethereal glow, their eyes are knowing. These stone creatures have foregone their mourning and looked to the light, relinquished their woe and wreathed themselves in hope. Weather-smoothed faces look ever more placid or seem to be disappearing as though the predetermined time of protection is up and they, too, are melting into a vague half-state. Hope sometimes comes with angel wings, folded quietly behind or poised, ready to fly upward.