Before I delve into this somewhat personal tale, I want to preface it with a wee bit of information that will be relevant a little later on, as the story unfolds. I love dandelions. I have an eye for dandelions, because I have a love for them. They get a whole lot of shit for being a troublesome weed, but when I was a little girl, someone once told me that all I had to do was make a wish and blow on the white puff that makes up the "mane" of the dand(y)lion, and whatever it was for which I yearned would be made reality. As a child that had a lot to wish away, I believed it. As an adult that was once that same child, I still do.
|as long as we continue to make wishes, there is hope left within|
When I lived in Florida, I used to visit a cemetery. I wouldn't say that I frequented the place...but I definitely stopped by on multiple occasions. I don't think I ever knew the name of it, but it was large, well-kept, and peaceful. It was never any coincidence, of course, that I would visit this place where life seemed ironically vibrant -yet strangely sequestered- during moments of unrest and uncertainty in my own life. It may sound peculiar, or even morbid; it may make sense to some, but regardless, during those notorious times when life simply refused to make up its mind to either shake me sane or knock me unconscious -preferring instead to leave me in a claustrophobic mental, emotional, and (especially) spiritual kind of purgatory- I would find myself driving just to drive, and I would eventually end up at the gates to this place...this cemetery.
This large place of eternal rest was set up in such a way that the main concrete paths could be used for either walking or driving toward the reflective visitation of a loved one that has moved on beyond the constraints of this physicality that so tightly binds us. Off these wide main paths, there were many secondary paths that were much more narrow and could only be accessed by foot. I didn't (that I knew of at the time) have any loved ones memorialized therein, so I would simply drive until I felt like stopping. I would pull off the main path and park, and I would get out and just start walking. Most of the time I would make my way along the walking paths randomly, letting the stillness set me in motion. Sometimes I would sit on a bench under a majestic oak (the kind that can only be found in Florida) and let the silence speak. And, after an hour or so, I would make my way back to my car and drive away. I can't say that I felt uplifted or enlightened from these visits. I just felt...quiet. No, I can't say I ever felt uplifted or enlightened...except once.
I had been in one of my "funks" for some time. Having recently returned from an awesome trip with my family to the Colorado mountains - during which time I was in almost a constant state of melancholy "soul searching" - I found myself perpetually and desperately seeking...something.
**If I may make a quick U-turn in this tale: From the moment we arrived in the Rockies, a song intruded upon my every thought, sprinting freely around my mind. The song was "Beulah Land" by Tori Amos. I love the song, but I was beginning to get tired of having it on a mental repeat. Anyhoo, on our third day in Glenwood Springs, CO, we climbed -on my insistence- up to the graveyard where one of my influential soul-kin is allegedly buried. Now, this place was totally different from the cemetery I visited in Florida. This place was a graveyard in the truest sense and certainly not a locale in which you would want to find yourself after the sun goes down. The tombstones were old - very old - and leaning all helter-skelter like; this way and that. On many of them, time and weather had asserted their harsh and eroding properties, making the engravings impossible to discern. By snow and mud, the ground was made into a thick sludge that seemed eager to hold onto the few visitors that made it past the graveyard entrance. My son and husband did a lot of complaining, but I was persistent in my endeavor (and it was a good thing too, because after some searching, we discovered Doc "placed" on the far perimeter of the graveyard, and the sun was going down...quickly. Yikes!).
|On the day we were here, it was not so bright as this; it was overcast and cold and muddy and spooky...and super cool.|
Anyway, since none of us knew -initially- where Doc was "buried," we split up...slightly. I trudged my way passed many burial plots, intensely focused on finding Doc; but suddenly, as I passed one plot in particular, I stopped. I turned to get a better look. It was one of the few headstones on which the carvings could still be seen. I was looking at the resting place of the body that once belonged to a young girl. Her name was Beulah. She was twelve when she died (the age of twelve holds some significance for me, but that is better left for another post).**
After returning to Florida - as previously stated - I remained in a funk, and rather than the whole of the aforementioned song doing laps in my head, a single verse continued to accost me: "Beulah Land, you beautiful whore, tell me when I don't need you anymore." So, one day, I was making the short drive from Belleview to Ocala, running errands that were as mundane as my very existence was feeling, when I made a sudden and unplanned detour to "my place" (the cemetery). And, it was on this day that I met Mr. J.
The day was cold (yes, in February, it gets cold in Florida), and the wind was more than an ambitious breeze. As I made my way through the rows of memory-markers, the sudden right or left turns on the walking paths didn't feel so random. I felt like I was being pulled. I found myself walking down a row in such a direction that all of the memory-markers had their backs to me, and I almost missed him. I actually walked passed him by a few steps when the wind suddenly picked up enough to noisely rattle the branches of an oak tree off to my left. Not really thinking (too) much of it, I stopped and glanced to my left. And there it was: a single dandelion growing out of the center of a cemetery plot. What struck me as odd was: number one, a dandelion so full and round in the winter time? No way! And, number two: how was that dandelion still boasting all of its little white fluffy seeds, despite the wind of that day? I was enthralled.
I stepped off the path and turned to face the stone description to which the dandelion seemed to be pointing. I read the name; I read the entrance and exit dates, underneath which was engraved an inscription that said, "If only love could have kept you." I sat down...no, I slumped down...on the ground, feeling a little breathless. I knew right away what those words meant. I looked to the burial plot to the right of Mr. J, and there lay Mrs. J. She died over twenty years later, and the fact that they rested their weary and worn bodies next to one another further confirmed the meaning of the inscribed message: He hadn't left her for another woman, but he had left her. He hadn't left her because he didn't love her; he left her because he couldn't love himself. She had tried to love enough for the both of them. I thought of Chad.
I realized two things with sudden notation: the wind of the day had ceased, completely; and my cheeks were wet. I read the words over and over again: "If only love could have kept you."
I pondered the deeply embedded sadness I carry with me that sometimes climbs its way up and out for some air. When it does, it's debilitating, and I just have to wait for it to get its fill and return to the depths. I tried to imagine a life in which this sadness never goes into hibernation. I tried to imagine no refuge from a cold and steady rain...for over sixty years in Mr J's case. I tried to imagine what a burden I would feel myself to be for my husband and my son...the hindrance I would be. I wondered, 'Would love be enough to keep me, or would it be out of love that I would refuse to be kept?' I couldn't answer that question, and I was grateful for that.
A slight breeze tossed my hair around, and I'll be damned if I didn't hear someone say...something. I didn't catch the words, but I caught the gist: "Let the love be enough. It's really that simple."
I thought of Chad. I thought of our son (and a different lyric of the same aforementioned song occurs to me in this moment: "Maybe I don't wanna go to where you're not"). Despite the emotional monolith that is chained to my soul, I found myself grateful that I get reprieve from it, and I am afforded very real -and sometimes lasting- periods of time whereby the love can reach me...and lift me...and save me...and keep me.
I picked the dandelion and held it for a minute. And I suddenly thought to myself, 'What if you've got it all wrong? What if Mr. J. was a promiscuous chump that couldn't be kept at home by the love of his wife? What if he died banging some whore in a cheap hotel room?" Alas, as usual, doubt began to torment the moment ("tell me when I don't need you anymore"). I looked passed Mr. J's memory-marker in contemplation, damning my ever-incessant doubt. As I did, my eyes fell upon a large family plot marker. The name of the family was engraved in large, bold letters. I recognized it immediately. It was the last name of a friend of mine whose brother had shot and killed himself. Chills ran up my spine.
I let my eyes drop back to Mr. J... "If only love could have kept you." I looked over at Mrs. J's memory-marker. I nodded and tossed away the doubt. Holding the dandelion up to my lips, I did not turn inward toward my "go-to" wish; instead I said, "I hope that love can reach you now, Mr. J." And I sent a sincere and grateful breath sailing over the dandelion. I watched and smiled as the seeds of hope were carried away on a brisk breeze.