One of my favourite places to go and visit is the local graveyard. We live on a square block, the streets conveniently named North, East, South and West, and the cemetery is on the North side of the square. I have no relatives or friends buried there, in fact, I have no connection to anyone there. But there's something about the ambience, the peace and the love that has gone into that patch of land that permeates the air and is hard to find anywhere else.
For many, graveyards are a sad, sorrowful place to visit. Whether just passing through them or walking by, or whether tending the grave of a loved one. Plenty of people actively avoid them. There's nothing wrong with this.
However graveyards, along with churches, are one of the few places on this earth I can find personal peace. Internally. Perhaps this is partly because of the fact it is so quiet and is one of the only places in the world, aside from religious buildings or spiritual retreats, that allow for the ultimate in self-reflection. Your problems and woes suddenly take a back seat. What you are faced with in a cemetery is the fact of your own mortality, and the mortality of everyone around you. Each headstone tells a story. A long-lived life. Couples buried together, united in their love in life and in death. A life cut short at far too young an age.
This particular cemetery is beautifully maintained. The array of headstones tell stories of people of all ages. There is a children's section, almost all of the headstones with only one date on them, telling of a stillbirth or a life lived only a few short minutes or hours. How devastating for the parents who have had to bury their tiny child. A life that could have achieved so much but never had the opportunity.
But how lucky that I, and the ones I love, have had the blessing to live and are still alive. To enjoy love and happiness, to experiences the joys life can bring.
And then there are flowers in planters and on the borders everywhere. Brightening the place up. Showing that life goes on. There is still beauty in the world. The death of a loved one causes so much pain, yet in the same moment, someone somewhere is taking their first breath, or a flower is coming into bloom for the first time, and bringing so much joy to some other someones somewhere.
The world doesn't revolve around any individual. It continues no matter what. We exist within it as it moves and we have to move with it, seeing the things we want to see, making our lives what we want to make them. Otherwise time will simply slip away and at the end of our lives, as we contemplate the reality of our past, present and future, we will end up with regrets.
Today as I walked around I saw something that, from the distance, looked like a green tent erected by some headstones. On approach I realised it was a freshly dug grave, green felt lining the hole in the ground and covering the mound of mud that would bury the deceased's coffin. The container that goes with the "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" ceremonial tradition was there too; ready, waiting. I envisaged the grief that would soon surround this area, the tears of sadness being wept and the pain of those who have lost their loved one. My heart sank and I spent several minutes thinking of the unknown life soldier who would soon be interred there.
Was it a young person, cut down in the prime of life? Was it someone who has lived their life to the full, exactly as they wanted to? Or someone who got by in life and got through happily enough, but never really achieved what they set out to?
I didn't stay around long enough to find out. Maybe next time I'm there, I'll pay a visit to the grave and find out.
One thing I know for sure is that however bad I think things are, at least I still have opportunities. I have the chance to dig myself out of my metaphorical hole and live the life I want to. I don't want people standing at either a real or a metaphorical grave with my name on, weeping over the parts of me that have been lost. I am alive and, as they say, "where there is life there is hope", so I intend to make sure that that when my turn naturally comes, I will have no regrets. I will have turned things around however many times I need to to keep living the life I want, to achieve the goals and dreams I have in mind, and to have loved and given as much of myself to others as is possible.
And I intend to visit that graveyard as often as possible, to pay my respects to those who are no longer around, and to thank them for teaching me some valuable life lessons.