A cemetery is an intimate place.
For me, it is a place where I let down my guard and become vulnerable to my feelings. Sometimes I raise my arms to the sky as if saying that I am ready to let it all wash over me but other times I sit silently and close my eyes and try to center my thoughts.
In the summertime when I visit my husband’s grave, I sometimes love to lay in the grass that covers where he is buried. As I lay on my back looking up at the sky, I love to let my hands run through the blades of grass and feel the warmth of the sun envelope me knowing that some part of him is underneath me.
I don’t do this every time I go there but when I do I find it to be comforting.
Isn’t that the whole point of going to a cemetery? To find comfort, to try and put yourself back together, to heal and to also find some measure of peace?
I talk to my husband while I am visiting there and I also leave things near his marker that I know he liked, such as cookies and shells from the beach. It’s my way of telling him that I am thinking of him and I’m still caring about him. It’s an emotional connection that gives me strength.
I was reminded of the healing role of my many cemetery visits while reading a touching Washington Post story yesterday about Section 60 in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The story reported that the small treasures and personal mementos people have routinely left at their loved ones graves for months is now being collected by the cemetery’s workers and taken away.
Section 60 hold special significance because that is where more than 800 recently deceased Iraq and Afghanistan war dead are buried and the pain of each relative’s grief is still new and raw. Arlington National Cemetery is one of the nation’s oldest cemeteries and within its 624 acres lies more than 14,000 veterans, including some who fought in the Civil War.
For many, many months, loved ones personalized the stark gravestones of their spouses, children and friends with pictures, balloons, dog tags, handmade trinkets, holiday decorations and love letters as they try to find some kind of answer to the searing heartbreak they feel about their special person’s death.
But the cemetery has changed its mind and is now collecting anything left at the gravesites. Arlington cemetery’s executive director plans to meet with the families of the deceased this Sunday to discuss the new policy of cleaning up section 60.
It seems that from the Army’s point of view, the cemetery needs to stay clean and look just like every other part of Arlington Cemetery but for the families, the disarray of the personal belongings left at the gravesites reinforced their love, their unwavering bond with their loved one and reflected their shattered dreams.
This link will take you to The Washington Post story, headline, “Another Death, Another Loss”: