Last week, I drove through a cemetery I hadn’t visited before and snapped a few photos. I’ve kept this one out because it touched me deeply as I’ve never seen a gravestone/ marker like it. I loved it so much that I’ve written a short story about it. A preemptive thank you to the Woodses for the inspiration. <<< PS: I don’t know them and my story is not about them, as you will see.
Hope you enjoy!
Once a month for the last five years, she’d gone to her mother’s gravesite at the edge of town. It was habit more than anything else and she attached little meaning to it. She didn’t go there to talk or visit or even to remember. She went because she’d promised her mother she would.
Every first Sunday of the month, she rode the city bus to the cemetery because she didn’t drive. She didn’t have a license and didn’t want one. She was very frugal with her money and her emotions.
It was “visiting day” as she’d come to call it and once again, she found herself in front of her mother’s simple gravesite. She wore her nicest leggings (with no holes and little pink flowers) and an oversized mens white t-shirt from Fruit of the Loom. She wore pink rubber flip-flops and her toenails were painted “Fire-starter Orange” which clashed with everything. She didn’t care.
Her name was Michelle but everyone called her Mickey, and by “everyone” that meant her father, who was the only person she had left in the world. He was in a rest home on the other side of town and she saved one Saturday a month for his visits.
As she stood at her mother’s grave, no tears came (as always). It was simple: Her mother was a horrible person with no redeeming qualities. In truth, she hated her. It didn’t feel good but there you were. The truth.
Michelle sighed as she turned toward the main gate. She took one step but before her flip-flop even touched the ground she heard a voice.
She stood alert and still, like a statue. And listened.
It was almost a whisper.
She turned back. Of course, nobody was there.
She shook her head and walked away.
She turned back. Was it her imagination or had she seen movement toward the back of the cemetery where the older graves were? (Back there, where it was lush and shadowed. Creepy.)
She squinted and tried to focus. Nobody was there except (of course) the occupants of the cemetery.
She was almost to the gate when she was stopped again.
The voice was more insistent now. It didn’t seem to be coming from one source, but all. It was inside her head and outside in the wind and trees. She put her hands over her ears.
It was right next to her and also… back there… in the dark places she’d avoided for so many years.
She walked carefully as she made her way to the older section of the cemetery (careful not to step on anyone below).
She felt the air change around her. Mature tree branches heavy with leaves created a canopy overhead, sparkling silver and chiming in the breeze.
“This way,” the voice whispered and Mickey followed the prompting.
She walked until she was led to stop and faced a monument where a Mr. and Mrs. Woods were buried. There was a small iron gate between their names.
“Open it,” the voice said.
Mickey bent down and unlatched the gate.
At that moment, a burst of light came through the opening and she saw (and felt!) lights bouncing through and around her. Like a crack in a car windshield, they fractured and went from side-to-side and up-and-down.
A chorus of voices rang through the trees…
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”
Mickey turned around and around, watching and listening. Finally, she fell to the ground, put her face in her hands and sobbed.
When she was emotionally spent, she looked up. Everything was back to normal. She got up and walked back towards the front gate, careful not to step on anyone along the way.
Her mother’s grave lay waiting.
Mickey stopped at the foot of it and got on her knees. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“I love you,” Mickey heard.
“I love you, too,” Mickey said, as she bowed her head.