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  • Writer's pictureSandra Lee

Mother, on her gravestone

'Mother?' that's it?? that's all she wrote...??


was doing one of my favorite pastimes, visiting a cemetery and indulging in my ongoing rumination of death, life and the meaning of, and other related subjects.

one of the related subjects is the reluctance for most people to even think about death, the dead, and the dying. we prefer to talk in hushed tones about it- if we talk about it at all- use softened phrases such as 'passed away,' and hang our heads and hide our faces when we express pain and grief. so puzzling, and yet i understand why we do it. it's from fear. and yet death is coming to all of us. every single thing and person has a birth, and a death. it's the 2 common denominators of all living things. yet we have a hard time saying even the word. and yet it surrounds us, is there every second of our life, intertwined, is just another moment in our many moments. death.

i say the way to abolish fear of death is to get in there, understand it, break it up and apart so as to express our feelings about it, without shame. find out about death, touch it, cry about it, laugh of it, feel it. the more we 'know' about something the more familiar we are with it, the more at ease we are about expressing our feelings about it. before we die ourselves, that is.

just 2 nights ago i had a horrible nightmare that one of my sons died.... woke up full of fear, and in coming to grips with the terror i had upon wakening, decided to visit a cemetery, to again face the possibility and surety of death. which reaffirms my obsession about visiting cemeteries. i 'feel' when i am in cemeteries. and become less afraid of death there. strange, i know. just find when i face a fear, there's less fear.

so back to the story of 'Mother.' i've visited many cemeteries, and have favorite dead ones that i visit. people whom i either have known, or have come to know, by visiting them there. so here i am in Fort Bragg and walked slowly thru, reading headstones and trying to figure out who was married to who, and when they died, or when one of their children died and how old they were when this happened. and wondering how did they feel. about everything. oh, it's complicated and painful and wondrous and an extremely enjoyable way for me to spend the morning. oh yes, i can hear the comments now, marveling and maybe disgusted and alarmed at the ways i spend my time. i am used to writing of many subjects that many may feel uncomfortable with. i enjoy that part too.

for some reason i take only one photo of a gravestone. i pass by all the other more interesting and magnificent headstones and crypts, of important families and instead find myself incredibly intrigued by a small insignificant one. which brought up all my thoughts on the meaning of life. oh what a glorious head trip my head now goes down... who was this woman, Florence, Mother, who lived to 58, who's whole life and moments were reduced to a one word description, 'Mother' ? that's all she got? hmmm. left a mountain of questions in my head, and rumination of her. so, she had children. which, first of all made me wonder about childbirth at the turn of the century. and then i wonder, was she called Flo? was she happy. fulfilled. angry. pretty. short. willowy. a redhead. buxom. did she have freckles or green eyes. did she garden, dance, paint, write, sew, bake, do cartwheels in the yard. what made her weep. was she funny. lazy. political. did she make love with lots of women and/or men or no one. did she enjoy it. or not. was she loved and adored. or beaten and abused. or somewhere in between. what made her die. d id she enjoy the moments in her life that made up her life, now completely unknown and forgotten? as the bible says, "even the remembrance of (her), is forgotten...".

which brings up for me another related subject concerning my wanderings in cemeteries. the meaning of life. which for me is defined as the very UN-importance of the meaning of life. which is this moment. and now that moment is long gone... in other words, the only importance that we can attach to life is the moment that it is spent in. when that moment is passed, so is it's importance. forever gone. meaning it had no importance, or is so transitory that we can barely grasp it's significance of importance before it slips into the next moment. these moments dissolve into the past and no longer even exists. no pain or joy lasts forever. it's only experienced in the moment. so all these moments we have, and have had of joy or pain, are now gone, forever. so our worry over what is happening in these moments, are also unimportant, meaningless. except in the brief moment that they are experienced. so the meaning of life, for me, is that nothing matters, except for that moment.

i find this eternally comforting, in my moments.

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