The blooming sourwood tree reminded of this piece I wrote a few years ago. It's still relevant and still tugs at my heart.
My husband and I took a walk up on the ridge, out to the church and the graveyard. The evening was cool and crisp, definitely a night for the wood stove to warm us. The trees were just beginning to turn, and there was a sourwood tree with blossoms and red leaves shining in the late evening light.
When we reached Mt. Hope church, I suggested walking through the graveyard. It had been a few years since I 'd taken the time to do that although I drive by almost every day. I don't have any family buried there and neither does Larry, so in a way it felt intrusive to look at the gravestones, like watching someone else cry with a grief not our own.
But as we walked and read the stones I realized how many of the names were those of people I have known in my 30 years here: Hugh Simons, with the big ears and big smile to match, who loved for me to come and sit with him when he moved back to his old homeplace to live with his brother and brother's wife; the young Hinzman boy who was killed in a four-wheeler accident; my friend Wetzel who gave my son Jon beer when he was only 16 --I threatened to do the same to Wetzel's daughters! Wetzel died when he was only 30 and we still miss his wild humor.
Then there's Doug's stone--he was also only 30 when he died, a young father electrocuted on the job.
My neighbor Louise lays in a well-kept grave--my friend who shared my birthday. Her quiet, religious life is honored by her children and husband who visit her often in this resting place.
Dan, my very good friend and great gardener, who is remembered by us all for his quiet ways and hard work.
And Olive who never missed seeing a car go up the holler and reporting to anyone who would listen.
John used to mow his grass with a scythe as neatly as any mower could do.
Orville loved to dance in the old mountain way. His old homeplace still stands, simple, austere--so like him.
As we walked, I saw more and more names that held places in my heart and memory.
I left feeling sad, and yet connected. So many friends over the years, so many memories, so many roots that hold me. There is a generation of the old folks who still knew how to do things the old way in the graveyard, and I felt the loss of a great store of memories and knowledge, laughter and kindness, shrewdness and stories.
There are also many graves for the young men who left too soon, and left their friends and family to miss them.
I'm glad they're close to home though, in graves well tended, in a peaceful cemetery on top of the ridge with quiet and beauty all around.
It's where I want to be when it's my time, surrounded by these old friends, beneath dirt I know and love, with those who still live passing by each day--and perhaps, now and then, stopping by to say hello and spend a few minutes remembering me and the time I spent with them.