We all have a Cemetery of the Heart that we visit from time to time. It is a place that is unique and belongs to each of us alone. Sometimes we visit when it’s sunny and the birds are singing and at these times we are unaffected by the memories each marker represents, thankful that we are in a better place. Other times we visit our Cemetery of the Heart when the weather is cloudy, cold, and stormy, perhaps mourning the loss of those happy memories that warmed our hearts in days gone by.
We may walk down an aisle, a small, grassy path flanked on either side by those tiny markers that barely acknowledge a person’s passing, viewing the tombstones with varying levels of interest and angst. Some of the smaller stones, barely a marker really, may represent missed opportunities, brief connections with people which never came to fruition or doors we did not open when opportunity knocked. Most are relationships that perished in their infancy. We recognize the names on some of these stones and others we do not. Some are lovers, some are friends and some are strangers we may have met in passing.
In the next row over are tombstones of those loves which may have been ill-fated, but which still resonate poignantly in our memories. The path through this row of grave markers is slightly uphill, but we can still easily make the trek. The stones are tall and strong with the names and dates etched in them as they are forever etched in our hearts. Each one a small nick, or scratch, or crack in the surface of our hearts, which may have changed it ever so slightly, but which also gives our heart some of the strength and character which has brought us this far.
As we turn the corner of the gravel path there are only a few graves left to view. Up the long, steep hill at the far back of our Cemetery of the Heart are the monuments and mausoleums. It is inevitable. Once we enter our Cemetery of the Heart we are compelled to walk the entire path, even when it becomes steep and difficult. There is no way to go back and erase what we’ve carved on each tombstone. The monuments and mausoleums may be far fewer in number, but their size and importance dominates our view of the cemetery.
In some places we have erected enormous monuments to lost loves. Some of them stand so tall and broad that they block the sun, dooming the small flowers we have tried to plant since the monument was built. Some of us are so tired from pushing the heavy stones into place that we haven’t even tried to plant new flowers yet. We hope that in time some hardy plants will grow here naturally in the shade of these memories and with enough time perhaps they will grow tall enough to reach the sunlight with branches where birds will nest and sing again.
Next to our monuments we notice a mausoleum. Some of the crypts are labeled and we fondly pay homage to those who still hold a special place in our hearts, those we still wish to check in on from time to time to see that they are well. Finally, if we choose to look closely enough, we can see that the daylight from outside our mausoleum has crept through the doorway to reveal a few empty drawers at the back. At this realization we smile and leave the cemetery in peace, knowing that the storm will eventually pass.