A Walk Among the Past of Others
Ralph Profitt | March 24, 2020
As part of an expanded routine during the current healthcare crisis we are all facing -- my dear wife Alta and I have been trying --
whenever weather and time and circumstances permit, to take rather long extended outside fresh air walks around several of our local cemeteries.
We find them socially in keeping with present distancing suggestions -- as we rarely -- if ever meet anyone else.
During our strolling -- we stop briefly, and sometimes linger longer -- reading the many varied listings on the many engraved
and lasered monuments erected throughout each facility.
In doing so -- amidst the quiet deafening silence -- I found myself pondering a rather strange series of interacting thoughts and questions --
wondering for example -- what reasoning did the departed -- or their remaining loved ones, want a noticeable designated grave marker placed at
the burial plot of those to be remembered?
Obviously -- with no disrespect ever intended -- it's for a collective enduring burial location of those with fond memories and
respectful admiration of the deceased by affectionate others.
I wanted to pursue it all a bit further in my own mind. To me -- there's perhaps also an additional maybe less prominent implication
that such aged permanent postings serve as notices of an enduring witness to one's life. A fully visible presence of observation that
one was once here for a living roll call. Silent sentinels of what once was.
And the various tombstone markings were interesting -- displaying the usual names, birth and dates of death --
along with an identity of children, and significant wedding dates where appropriate. As a student of history --
I speculated in my own thoughts about what interesting conversations many of these much earlier passings and I could have shared
when comparing some of their long ago eras of time and experiences with some of our more modern events and circumstances.
What a discussion that would have been!
It was especially interesting to note proud listings of what presumably was some of the more important and worthy connections
of past lives -- involving honored ranks and dates of prior military service, along with other respected fraternal and professional
associations, and numerous inspired messaging.
Some died young -- others old. I reflected on how many may have died unexpectedly, or before they could sadly fulfill all or some
of their many dreams, hopes, desires, and ambitions. Or, if any may have sorrowfully passed on leaving a tragic life of regrets.
A living desire to have been more of what they had in them to be, and now no chance to do a do over.
In that moment, I was reminded of the poet's words, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these,
"it might have been.”"(John Greenleaf Whittier). We will never know about such curious speculations -- only the dead know the truth.
I was especially struck by a prior graveside monument that read, "Think of me as you pass by -- for as you are now --
so once was I. Prepare in life to follow me." Eternal advice to the always living -- given by another once living breathing person.
This lethal widespread global pandemic has once again dramatically acquainted us with the fragile nature of our lives.
It is a continuing mortal play of: “Here today -- possibly gone tomorrow.”
Shakespeare once wrote, "A man can die once, we owe God a death" -- (dying in keeping with our spiritual concepts).
As we continued our walking -- I thought about what another poet also once wrote, "Look to this day -- for it is life --
yesterday is gone -- it's only a dream -- a memory -- and tomorrow is only a vision. Today is your new beginning --the first day --
of the rest of your life -- a day well lived -- makes every yesterday a dream of happiness -- and every tomorrow --
a vision of wonderful hope and possibilities." (Author unknown). For us the living -- we still have a gracious opportunity to be
thankful for the vibrancy of life and a chance to be more of our better selves -- before it's too late.
As Alta and I were leaving the cemetery -- a warming gentle breeze, with glowing sunshine and growing plants bursting forth with
renewed abundant life amidst our new beginning.
Spring assures us all once again -- God is always in control. That is where we will keep our faith and, and always know we will
not be disappointed.
Be well -- stay safe.