In my wanderings, I came upon two stones side by side, neighbors of a sort. Casually reading the inscriptions, I was struck by the fact that both marked the resting place of wives of the same man, unless during that era two men of the same name existed in the same area at the same time. How could both women, I wondered, have been his wives? Pondering a bit, I carefully compared the dates on both stones. One woman had died at age 16, the other at age 25. This then raised the possibility that both had died of complications relating to childbirth, a common cause of death in young women in those years. At that time, also, it was common for a man to remarry as soon as possible, often to a sister of the first wife. Since both women shared the same initial after their ‘given’ or first name on the stone, this seems to have been the case.
That one tiny community graveyard with so many untold, unrecorded, and yet fleshly stories sleeping there, calling out to those with the wits to hear their call. In the dry crunch of the occasional leaf, in the shifting shadows of shading trees, haunting voices open wide among the growing things of the wild forest forever encroaching on the neat-mowed patch reserved solely for memories.
Death, to me, is a transient thing. One wears out a body like a suit of clothing often re-sized in a rough way, and then one – the ‘real’ one – moves on. In our passing, if it has been a good life, we leave, more than anything else, understanding. Lessons go unspoken, soft as an owl’s wings in that darkest night, as enigmatic as the gentle conversations of doves at early dawn.