3. Heart

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When I saw that the prompt for today was “heart,” I thought it would be easy.  Today was the day of the funeral, and I assumed that I would take a picture of a carved heart on a memorial.  The graveyard where my dad’s family is buried is probably a hundred-plus years old and the headstones reflect various changes in style through the years.  Some are merely names and dates, some are decorated, some are inscribed with paragraphs of text describing the decedent’s life and death.  It’s a motley collection reflecting a wide range of personalities.  I have spent time in the past wandering through, looking at the life stories contained in a few lines of carved text.   Hearts and angels abound, granite and marble symbols of love and affection.

Today, though, was a different cemetery.  A “perpetual” care-taking service means that the head “stones” are flat metal plates, engraved at the edges with leaves and flowers.  Names and dates are welded onto small plates bolted onto the larger memorial plates.  Each grave has an identical metal vase set in the center of the plate, with almost-identical bunches of silk flowers faded by the sun.  The rules for floral arrangements are prominently displayed on a sign at the entry to the facility.  It’s compact, tidy … and unemotional, in a way I have trouble describing.  Every grave is the same, man or woman or child, married or single, tragedy or relief.  The cold and the wind and the day’s schedule kept me from looking past the graves that were on the way to and from my car, but I didn’t see a single heart on the plates that I passed.  Besides a heart on a license plate (“Alabama, the Heart of Dixie”), there were none to be found.

When I got home, I started looking around the house.  I’m not a hearts and flowers person, so it should not have been surprising that there wasn’t a heart readily available for a photo.  But, before Christmas, we made salt dough ornaments.  Or at least, we cut out and baked salt dough ornaments.  Twice.  Don’t ask.  We got one coat of paint on them one afternoon before the 3-year old lost it, and they’ve been sitting on my counter ever since.  My intention, originally, was to use them as decoration on Christmas packages, an additional little gift wrapped up in the ribbons and bows.  I’m not sure what to do with them now – packing them up and saving them for next year is the most likely path.

I’m afraid of what will happen next year when I unpack them though.  Will the memories of today cling to them, ghosts folded up with tissue paper in the basement?  Will it hurt to see them, to remember that when we made those ornaments, he was still alive?  Will I think back to writing this, see that heart and be transported back to today?

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