File this one under: things I did not anticipate experiencing today.
I try to devote a portion of my Saturdays to walking my ten year old Australian shepherd on a longer walk now as a part of my “fitness and bettering my health” goals. I use that type to listen to the NPR Politics podcast or the Around the Table podcast. Which is kind of funny because one irritates me because the state of the world ain’t that pretty right now, and the other speaks words of grace to the soul and leaves me feeling good. I guess that means I try to maintain some resemblance of balance in my life.
The second necessary backstory nuggets here is that as much as I hate living in my current apartment, I love that I can literally cross the street and walk through Gage Park. My usual route has been taking us about 2.25 miles in a circle past elephants (seriously, for you out of town readers), a pond, a rose garden, a children’s play ground, a train—all sorts of cute, interesting scenic views. However on this particular day, Sadie the wiggle butt was being, well, quite the butt. She barked at her own shadow, she barked while we walked past the Phelps family protesting (although, I’d argue, what a good pupper yes very good doggo), pulled on the leash like crazy and was just overall not being that great of a walking partner. So on a whim I decided to hang a right at the opened gates of Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery on the western side of the park thinking anywhere would be better than my current route.
Truth be told, I had no idea this place was even there. It’s not exactly a place you’d particularly drive past unless you had a reason to be there. As I researched it for this blog, I learned it’s 53 acres with 18,000 burials. It opened in 1873. I did not see a soul in sight on this sprawling patch of land, so it seemed to be a perfect place to hike with Sadie with minimal interruption.
We walked all the way to the back and hung a left to follow the circuit. As I walked I noticed that many of the flowers and decorations had blown over thanks to the recent bouts of rain, storms and wind. So as we continued our much more leisurely and pleasant hike, I’d stop and return the stray flowers to their homes. I’d done this about a dozen times and as I focused on scanning the field I wasn’t paying attention to the van sitting on the side of the road. As I approached, I noticed a woman moving her arms in an animated fashion and presumed she was real fired up about whatever conversation she was having with her husband.
However, as I nearly passed them I heard the window roll down and both the elderly woman and her husband trying to flag me down. I approached the window—which if my mom knew that she’d probably flip. However the inhabitants were two elderly Hispanic people that, should they try to wrestle me into their van, I could probably easily fight them off.
The pair spoke very limited English, so I am thankful I studied a very basic amount of Spanish in college, I was able to understand a portion of what they were saying. Between my shoddy Spanish and their limited English, I had an interaction I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life.
The woman motioned towards the third to last grave’s flowered I had just fixed and explained that her and her husband could not walk well, and since it was muddy it was hard to navigate. So they drove in their van to sit on the side of the road to visit their family member who had passed away. She repeatedly said God bless you, God bless you, thank you so much. She motioned towards the loaf of crusty bread her and her husband were eating from and asked me if I wanted to share in breaking of bread with them. I said sure, and together we ate on the side of the road near their relative. We parted ways shortly there after, exchanging several more “God bless you’s. She handed me another chunk of bread and they drove away. We didn’t even exchange names.
I was so interesting, I thought, as I continued my hike. Because while I was hiking I was listened to the Around the Table episode centered on being stuck between a rock and a hard place, and dealing with situations that just seem to have no truly good option. It seemed so applicable as I walked through a place that was often a place of grief and despair for many people. I pondered it in the context of my own life. It’s been a hard year filled with grief and loss in my own way. Losing friends, friends losing family members, dealing with the fear that I was going to lose my mom a few weeks ago—it all just seemed to apply so much. Even with that couple’s grief, they were able to find some good in their situation by connecting with a stranger and sharing in the breaking of bread together.
I walked towards the other end of the cemetery, noticing the sudden shift of gravestones completely devoid of all decorations. Many of the headstones were covered in moss and utterly unreadable. The ones I could read belonged to people who had passed away over 120 years ago. I noticed many belonged to babies and children. It appeared to me that there was no one around to remember them anymore and it made me feel very small and suddenly very aware of my own mortality. Thinking that eventually I would be a grave that no one remembered, no one visited, and no one decorated or maintained anymore.
In many ways, we are so desperate to find meaning in our experiences and what happens to us. We try to rationalize that things don’t just happen and that surely there is some intention in these everyday, albeit unusual, experiences. I choose to believe that those people were placed in my path because I needed that reminder that there is good in all things, sometimes buried deep down and indiscernible, and those people needed a reminder that people out there care beyond their own circle of needs.
PS: I ended up walking 4.24 miles with my old elderly girl Sadie and she probably hates me now. I anticipate that she isn’t going to move around much more the rest of the day.
Enjoy what you’ve read? My dream in life has always been to be able to write full time. It would mean the world to me if you’d share and subscribe to my updates. If I ever become a famous writer you could say that you totally read me before I was cool!