I left after worship on November 1 to drive to Ohio to visit my sister, Carol. I stopped in Pittsburgh to spend the night with my best childhood friend, Elaine and her husband – a sleep over after a 45-year hiatus. I mentioned at dinner that I wanted to take off by 8 am so I could stop at the Sewickley Cemetery to visit my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents on my mom’s side. Elaine asked if it would be OK to follow me in her car so she could go too.
We shared many pleasant afternoons at that cemetery as children. My mother and grandmother would pack a picnic lunch, load up the car with fresh plants to go in front of the headstones, and Elaine and I would wander all over the cemetery, looking at headstones, wondering about who the people were, and just being kids.
Sewickley Cemetery sits atop a hill that overlooks the town of Sewickley, set along the northern bank of the Ohio River. It is a hilly cemetery with huge oak and pine trees. I had forgotten just how steep the slope was where my grandparents and great grandparents are buried. The temperature was hovering just below freezing, and there was a thin layer of snow on the ground. And then there were the acorns, hard as marbles in the cold weather, littering the hillside.
Elaine and I used to run around the cemetery with abandon in our Keds. But not this time. This time, aware of how easily we could fall and break something, we held onto each other as we gingerly made our way to the Albrecht plot. The cemetery is just up the hill from Sewickley Valley Hospital, where I was born, had my tonsils removed, and my chin stitched up after I hit it on the diving board one summer. At least if we fell and broke something, help wasn’t far away. We skidded along that hillside, and good friend that Elaine is, she saved me several times when I started to slip.
I flashed back to a memory of my mom. When we were kids, we would play with marbles. My mother was always full of dire warnings about marbles. Don’t leave them on the floor, someone will slip and fall and break their head open. And never put them in our mouths. My mom had a friend by the name of Christine who was messing around onetime with a marble in her mouth. She choked on it and died. (Not to worry, we lost track of the number of times Christine died, a sort of sacrificial story to scare us out of doing things that were risky.)
It was a good way to begin All Souls’ Day. My sister has always been the one in the family who kept up the graves since she is the only one who lives close enough to do so. When I mentioned I’d stopped there on the way, her face lit up. It is so often the little things that matter: a memory, a friend to help support you, a smile on a loved one’s face. Jon Cabot-Zinn wrote, “The important things in life aren’t things.” He’s correct.
Focus on what really matters today ~ Anne