I chose this place at Third and Dogwood because it is what it is, no more or less—a parcel of ground set apart to bury the dead. It is laid out in blocks separated by narrow lanes, barely wide enough for one car pass—originally meant for wagons and carriages I suppose. There is no mausoleum here, nor alabaster statues—no reminders of eternal life. I am satisfied with that. If such considerations have been unimportant in life, they are meaningless by the time you arrive at this place; you die as you have lived.
I was alone as far as I could tell, standing at my husband’s grave that morning after his burial. Once more I was the detached observer, standing apart, hollow as the man of straw, just as I had been on the morning of my mother’s death.
It had rained all night, and the fog was settling in over the surrounding stone markers. The patch of grass was raw from his intrusion. My own plot was unbroken. The soil had never been turned; no row of beans, or potatoes or marigolds had been planted there. Suddenly I was filled with an astonishment that chilled me to the bone. I was standing on my own grave that waited without purpose for my committal. I had reached the end of trying to understand this brief span of life that comes out of the darkness and returns to the night.
But a strange thing happened as I began to breathe again. It was not the death and funerals that filled my mind, but the joy of my mother’s laughter as I skipped over crusty patches of snow and stuffed my pockets with Johnny-jump-ups; it was the appreciation of the good black soil and all that grew there that my grandfather had given me; it was the first cry of my children; and of all those whom I have loved me, and especially those who have loved me back. Every loss and every leap forward confirms my existence.
– Third and Dogwood, ©2000 Vivian Cress.