With the twins entering preschool this fall, I decided it was time to reclaim my running legs. So I went for a walk/run the other day in my new town along a route recommended by my sister-in-law.
The route took me through a local cemetery, which was appropriate; By the time I got there, I wanted nothing more than to take a long rest.
So I walked.
I have run through many cemeteries over the years, but I haven't walked though one in decades. Not since I was a child. As a child, I would run from stone to stone, seeking out familiar names and looking for the grave of my sister, who died as a baby when I was only two years old.
I derived a sense of comfort from cemeteries back then even though I was generally terrified of anything involving death. The bodies that lie under my feet were those of relatives or the relatives of friends. They were people who were part of my history.
I felt, oddly, at home.
But I did not get that sense here.
Here, in this cemetery, in the community where I will live for the rest of my life, where we will raise our four children, where my husband grew up, was evidence of a certain status I will never achieve. I am an outsider. I always will be, no matter how deeply entrenched I become.
And that is okay.
I have my own hometown.
My own cemeteries.
I have another place that has fused within my core and will always be part of who I am.
But our kids don't have that.
Two were born in Arizona, and two were born in Cincinnati.
Their roots have easily come loose with each move, leaving little or nothing behind. (Well, not as easily for the older kids this time around. We had to tug a little harder and their leaves are still a bit droopy and wilted from the shock, but I am confident they will recover and flourish.)
I had never understood the need for the formalities of cemeteries before, for gravestones and memorials and family plots. My irrational fears dictate that I be cremated after death, and I hadn't given much thought to where my ashes would land.
My husband has strong feelings though, so I agreed long ago to his request that, when our souls are long gone from this world, my ashes will lie with him, wherever he might choose.
But on this day, I started to understand something. I understood that this isn't just about me. This is about our children and their children and their children. This is about that feeling, that sense of belonging.
Our hope is that this is the place where our children will grow roots so strong that no one and nothing can rip them out, regardless of where they settle in adulthood. This will be the place they can come home to no matter how long they have been away.
A sense of history and of their place within that history will help those roots grow thick, deep and strong.
Cemeteries provide some of that nourishment.
A great deal more than I realized.
And this cemetery, in particular, provided me with nourishment of a different kind. After passing all those gravestones-- lingering long enough to read the names and the dates of death and birth and realizing that they were often far to close together --I found the motivation to pick up my pace again.
It was hot.
I was (and am) horribly out of shape.
But I ran.
Just a couple of quarter-mile stretches.
But I ran.