Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cow Field Cemeteries

     We took a detour to get to Rock Hill today, driving the Old York Road through Brattonsville instead of taking the quicker interstate route.  It was a gorgeous fall day, with a much appreciated cerulean blue sky finally appearing after a week of hurricane-fueled rains and soggy gray skies. The cotton fields had been plucked and cut down to stubby rows of stalks, the cows were feeding in pastures speckled with orange, maroon, and golden leaves, and covies of migratory birds swooped and swirled across the sky on their southward journey to warmer climes. We drove slowly, enjoying the leisurely autumn drive through quiet back roads, relishing the relaxing pace and spring-like temperatures after enduring a cold dreary week.
     Shortly after we veered off Highway 321, we spotted a cemetery on the side of the road, just past the house with the purple trim, purple shutters, purple doors, and   purple wishing well. You couldn't miss it unless you were already dead.  A chain-link fence surrounded the graveyard, and it had been freshly mowed, but other than that it was void of any landscaping or signage. A double gate marked what must have been the only access point. It looked to be about five acres of land, more or less, with more empty acerage and less graves than expected.  As we drove past, I viewed the vacant plots and wondered why the ten or so visible graves had been neatly lined up in a perfectly straight row. They were tucked into the fartherest side of the field, in one single line with headstones and artificial flowers marking each plot, the rest of the cemetery standing vacant and bare. The graves weren't spread out in the usual way, with individual family plots gathering it's members into tight little huddles around the field; instead, they were in a solitary, rigid, straight row, like an army platoon, one lined up behind the other, silent soldiers marching to a silent drum.
    "That cemetery sure isn't doing very well," I commented to my mother, who was riding in the front seat beside me.
     She looked over and nodded in agreement. After I opened my mouth, I thought about what I had just said.
     "I suppose it's better that it's not doing well, if you think about it," I corrected myself. "It's not as if I'm wishing a bunch of people were dead, it just  looks sad to see only a few graves and all that empty space. It looks a little lonely out there."
     I couldn't explain exactly what I meant, except that when it came time to lay my body down in the cold, cold, ground, I wanted to be surrounded by a few other people, some family and friends, if possible, and not just lined up in one single, solitary row, stuck over by some pine trees with four empty acres waiting to gobble up fresh, dead souls.  I wanted to be in an established cemetery, one I knew would be around for a long, long time, one with huge, old trees standing guard and lots of other souls peacefully resting there with me. I wanted to be tucked in between moss-covered family headstones that were surrounded by rusting wrought iron fences, a plot that contained evidence of its permanence and stability.  I wasn't planning on changing addresses once I got there, and I wanted to make sure my final resting place still existed when the good Lord came to call me home.
      My mother understood what I was trying to say, as only mothers can understand their children, and felt the same compassion as I did for those poor old souls stuck in that desolate ground.  I told her I'd rather be a pile of ashes in an urn on the  mantle than relegated to that half-empty, forsaken red clay field.
     So when the time comes for me to breathe my last breath, don't you dare stick me in somebody's old cow pasture surrounded by scrub pines and call it a cemetery.  No sir, because if you do, I will come back to haunt you in your dreams at night and in your waking hours during the day, moaning and groaning and rattling my chains until somebody finally moves my tired old bones to an old family plot. There I'll  rest in peace with my dearly departed relatives, waiting to march into glory together, holding hands and singing "Hallelujah" in chorus with the ones I love.
      But enough about that, for today I was alive and well and still had some shopping to do! We drove on to Rock Hill, shopped ourselves to death, and took the interstate home.

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