Local View: Finding peace in a most unexpected place
I'll never forget how I found my peace one summer evening in the most unusual place.
I was having a bad day. My friend had relapsed again and was sinking into that dark place she goes when she's had too much to drink. I was afraid that in her drunken state she was going to die or get arrested, and nothing I said was making a difference. The next thing I knew my husband and I had a fight and were not speaking. The pressures of life had me exploding with a multitude of emotions.
So I did the one thing I learned would help me feel better: I laced up a pair of walking shoes and headed out the door.
I thought about walking the six blocks to my mom's house; she always had a way of making things seem better. But then I felt a kind of calling. I was missing my dad. I decided it was him who I needed to visit. I hadn't been to the graveyard since he was buried a year earlier.
Forty minutes later I was standing at the cemetery's entrance. I could feel my heart pumping while I scanned the yard. I focused on the rhythm of my breathing while tuning into the sound of the vehicles speeding by behind me on the highway. I was oddly excited.
The first graves I searched for were those of Clyde and Midge. My dad was best man in their wedding. They moved to Milwaukee after they married in 1951, and that was where they raised their six kids. Our family of six kids got together with them at least once a year, and their daughter Marlys became one of my best friends. Ours was an important link that held our family lines together. I took a deep breath and looked across the yard in the general direction of where my father was buried. I thought how sad it was that when Marlys and I die no one will know how important our families were to one another.
After my dad's burial, I remembered how my family walked as a staggered group to find his mother's gravestone. Grandma Elsie was buried near the front, next to her mom Carolina and step-dad John. Elsie died in 1951, five years before my parents married. The time she spent on earth was tragic at times. Her daddy died when she was 13 months old. She got a new step-dad when she was 6. She had scarlet fever as a youth, which eventually was blamed for her mental disability. John was an amazing man who loved and supported Carolina's children, but dealing with a disabled child must have been especially overwhelming in those days. Elsie was a beauty, I was told, but that also may have been her curse.
I stood by her stone and felt a sadness for us all. It was another time. It was a different way of life. The leaves of the aged oak trees fluttered as the breeze massaged my face. It was time to say goodbye.
I read headstones as I strolled toward the back where I'd find my father's resting place. Families. Couples. Children. I wondered what their stories were. I knew I was getting close when the graves began to be adorned with freshly potted flowers, hangers, and colorful trinkets. The survivors of the deceased in this area obviously were still among the living. Even the shade trees were younger.
I had only been here once, so it took me a while to find it. Funny, but I felt a sense of peace when I finally did. It wasn't the emotion I expected.
I stared at my father's headstone and felt the warmth of his gentle smile. My father was a kind and giving man. He did as best as humanly possible to live a Christian life. I couldn't have asked for a better role model. Yet he wasn't perfect. And I realized that was the key that I had lost somewhere along my way. I had come to believe my struggles were a punishment for my sins versus a normal part of being human.
"This too shall pass" was a proverb my father commonly quoted. He was right. My anger passed. My fear was replaced with hope.
Memories of my father started coming to life. I took my time thanking God for my many blessings.
A cool shift in the atmosphere bade me to look back toward the darkened highway. The graveyard had turned into a place I no longer belonged. I was eager to get back home.
I hurried toward the cemetery's exit with renewed strength. I was grateful to be alive, to have a chance. I was awakened to work on my own happy ending for the sake of myself, my family, and friends.
I found the peace I was looking for — within me.
Doris Rauschenbach is a writer in Ashland.