One of my son’s favorite places to visit is the cemetery.
We walk there from our house (it’s our nearest “park”) and, once past the enclosure fence, my son crawls down from his stroller and pushes the stroller around like a life-size toy car.
There’s a fountain under a huge old fir that we call my son’s fountain.
Flat headstones make level ground which is easier to navigate than the lumpy soil and sod. It’s common to see my son leap from stone to stone, his shoes slapping happily as he runs.
There’s a special section on a hill covered in pinwheels, balloons, and little toys. Babyland. I once read a book that described such a section of a cemetery and it said, “By the waters of Babyland, we lay down and wept.”
This particular area used to break my heart. Then my son insisted on exploring it. So, I followed him between stones that noted lives that had lasted one or two days. Babies with names who had not grown old enough to recognize them.
And while my heart rose to my throat, my little guy strode on, picking up pinwheels and spinning them to flash in the sunlight. He crouched to smile at a teddy bear, droopy and sodden from many nights out in the rain. And I was reminded that we all walk through the graveyard of loss.
No matter what direction we try to take.
I can grieve. (Grieve and grave seem like word-siblings. I only just now see this). And there will be times when I cannot rise from my knees. But this will not consume my days. I will pass through the cemetery. I will intimately know some of the names carved on those stones.
But, like my son, I must also raise my eyes. To delight in the sparkling water fountain, the blanket of lawn daisies, the luminous leaves of the grand old maple.
At an Ash Wednesday service, a woman from my church read a poem, the essence of which plead this passionately: in the face of war, cruelty, torture, brutality, racism, starvation, and death, we cannot forget to laugh, dance, throw lavish parties with our friends, and delight in the blessings of the earth.
I think of the film, Life is Beautiful, and I glimpse the courage to be joyful in the face of the unspeakable. I watch my son’s innocent playfulness as he touches a toy sitting on a baby’s grave.
These things keep us strong. These are what we mean by the word brave. These are the songs I must find the strength (Jesus give me the grace) to sing.
These are the songs I must sing.