I find cemeteries to be peaceful sanctuaries, whether they are crammed into the congestion of suburbia, or sitting silently beside woods and fields. I have always felt comfort in a cemetery -- its quiet little plots holding generations that have gone before us to the peace of eternal life.
Several years ago I began some genealogical research which led me to cemeteries in rural New York -- some in the farmland of Delaware and Schoharie counties and some in the wooded mountains of Warren County. One cemetery, in particular, in Harpersfield, felt like a family reunion with ancestors dating back to the early 1800's. In the silence of a sunny July morning, I felt a welcome of sorts as I touched the engravings of those who have passed on before me.
Wild thyme graces the cemeteries in Warrensburg and Chestertown, as it does in several local cemeteries. Walking slowly over a carpet of thyme releases its pungent aroma, as its tiny flowers create a blanket of purple over the gravesites. The deep stillness in the cemetery in Chestertown where I found my great-great grandparents was broken only by occasional birdsong.
Yesterday I bought two tiny iron crosses. I drove to the quaint little country cemetery where my stillborn baby girl lies, and placed one cross on her grave. Someday, I too, will be with her on that gentle hillside.
Then, I visited my sister's grave in another local cemetery and placed a cross by her stone. Next week will be the first anniversary of her death, and I have found myself painfully reliving the memories of her last weeks of life. After her long suffering, I was filled more with a sense of relief than grief when she finally died. The grief has come incrementally through the past year -- her birthday, the first Christmas without her, the multitude of tiny reminders that make missing her a continuing process. These next few days will be difficult, but once they are over, I will have passed all the milestones of the first year, and hopefully, the pain will begin to lessen a bit.
She lays now in the midst of carpets of thyme, beside our parents, overlooking the middle school she attended, and I trust that she is at peace now and watching over me as I place the tiny cross, tell her I love her, and walk slowly back to my car in the soothing cemetery silence.