Can we stop here to rest?


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

As Roxy and I peered out the living room window, the sun beckoned us to go outside.
Slowly inching our way down three flights of stairs, we made it outdoors.
Yet ten minutes later, the dog park no where in sight, I wondered why I had let myself be seduced by the bright, golden sun.

The sweat on my brow indicated it wouldn’t be long before my knee gave out. Desperately searching for a bench, I spotted one across the fence. Realizing it would only take a few more steps, I soldiered on.

As I approached the entrance, I realized my fatigue had blinded me to the fact that the bench rested in one of the corners of the local cemetery. As I tentatively took a step, Roxy looked up at me as is to ask, dare we? I nodded my head and we quietly entered this place of rest.

A place of rest–that’s what nana called the cemetery.

“It’s a place where the bodies of the deceased come to rest, Bella.”

“Nonsense, mamá,” my devout Spanish Catholic mother had replied. “Don’t confuse la niña, madre. It’s a place where people who once lived come so they can return to the dust they once were, Bella.”

Smiling, I realized that even then, I had liked nana’s explanation more.

Today, more than ever, it appeared nana had been right.

As Roxy and I sat on the bright, green bench, we took in our surroundings. The cemetery was devoid of any visitors. Looking around, I noticed there were graves that were decorated with flowers, plants, and even stuffed animals. Others were adorned with rosaries and religious icons.

And one grave was completely bare; devoid of any memento or decoration.

I wondered if the grave was bare because family members of the deceased had also passed away. Had they moved away to a faraway land making it impossible for them to visit the grave? I felt a great sadness wash over me. Many years ago, when we had moved from the Caribbean, we too had left nana’s remains behind.

Was her grave as bare as this one that only had a tombstone? I breathed a sigh of relief as I remembered that my mother sent a friend money every month so she would bring fresh flowers to nana’s grave.

Closing my eyes, I prayed silently.
I quickly became aware of how turning off one sense seemed to heighten all the others.

I felt the wind ruffle my hair.
I smelled the tasty aroma of someone’s barbecue as it wafted over the fence.
And I heard sounds. Many sounds.
Birds chirping, children playing, a car’s faulty exhaust, someone striking a can with a stick.

I inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled. I felt at peace. Sitting by my side, Roxy held up her snout to the sun. We basked in the sunshine a little while longer, not wanting to leave the warm bench that had cradled us for the past hour.

As we turned to leave, I looked back at the empty grave.
Suddenly I wished that someone, faraway, had stopped to rest by the tree that stood next to nana’s grave.

The thought comforted me as Roxy and I made our way home.

Where did you last stop to rest?

Note: Dear Readers, I wrote this post last weekend before I underwent surgery. I have since had my meniscus repaired and am presently on the mend. Thank you for all your tweets and emails. I greatly appreciate it!