Running with the Dead

{Image courtesy of RootsWeb}

This past Friday was a glorious day here in SW Ohio; not only did my little guy Tom turn three, the bitter chill of winter lifted for the day.

By noontime, the temperature outside was over fifty. The sun shone down and melted what little snow remained, including the remnants of the snowman Becky had constructed on our front yard two weeks ago.

A day such as Friday, my fine bloggy friends, is a mid-winter gift to us runners. I called my mom (even though I'd just seen her for a quick birthday breakfast out for Tom) and asked her if she wouldn't mind watching him for a little bit while I went for a short run before picking up the big kids at school

My little town's cemetery sits a short walk from my parents house so after dropping off Tom and his lunchbox (he always packs it when he goes to see Grandma and Grandpa; they have more than enough snacks, he just wants to be like his big brother and sister), I headed over there to run on the roads that wind and loop through the hills.

It was my first time running there and I was taken aback by how pretty the setting is. Along the east side of the cemetery, Turtle Creek cuts through the rising hill that slopes up toward the northern boundary. Old sycamores and oaks stand guard at the edges of roads.

And throughout the cemetery, stories from souls now silent are told in brief two and three word phrases on crumbling stones.

It's humbling to be a living juxtaposition; I ran up and down the hills, my legs pumping and my mind sparking, a figure full of life amongst the dead.

It's humbling, too, to be an unexpected witness to private grief. On my second lap around, a truck pulled up and parked near a new section. Out of the driver's side, a man creased and slumped with fresh sorrow stepped. He closed his door quietly, then headed out toward the loved one he'd come to visit on that fine January day.

I averted my eyes and wondered, Will I visit Knute? Will he visit me?

I ran on.

Not much further down the hill I saw a small stone shaped like a cross, an older stone with fresh flowers draped over it. On the face of the stone, I saw the dates xxMonth - xxMonth, 1951*. The inscription read Our beloved daughter.

A deep mother-sadness washed over me; a child lost over fifty years ago still mourned, still loved and tended to in the most final way possible. To see such devotion to a lost baby the day after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the same day of my third child's birth, the same day President Obama reinstated U.S. tax-payer supported funding for women's health clinics overseas that perform abortions was a sad and weighty irony.

I ran on.

Back up and around the hill, the man I'd glimpsed earlier was now gone. I hoped my presence hadn't disturbed him or amplified his grief in any way. As I ran back down the hill, I looked up and out over the cemetery.

Stones and crosses and vaults, some so new they reflected the sun's bright rays like mirrors and others worn and battered by decades of rain and wind and sun and snow. All of them standing quietly marking the lives of those who came before me.

What were their dreams? What were their bitter failures?

So many stories, my writer's mind thought, as I passed back under the stone arch and headed home. Stories now untold but once alive, once yearned for and guarded over and treasured by those that held them deep in their hearts.

These words that I leave here in this blog: they are my story, my story told in brief snatches of words scribbled when the house is quiet late, late at night or while the kids argue about who gets next pick on the TV or when the phone is ringing incessantly and dinner isn't finished yet and my inbox is bursting with emails and the dogs are sloppy with mud from the half-thawed backyard.

My story, rescued from the silence of my certain death.

My story, rescued one blog post at a time.

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*Months omitted to protect the privacy of the relatives.