Monday, May 01, 2017

Finding Life in a Cemetery

There are some days that you (well, I) just need to memorialize because of how meaningful they were.

Sunday was one of them for me.

My friend, Michael Fishman, whose mother died way too early told me that he thought my blog was a great gift to my kids because, "one day, when they are curious about who you are, they will have your blog."

I was so fortunate to have my maternal grandparents with me until the age of 34. Every year since they died 10 years ago, we had a family gathering on/around the anniversary of their death.

Last year, for whatever reason, we didn't make it.

So, this year, when the anniversary of their deaths (they died within 5 weeks of each other) came around, I really felt a pang and a deep need to visit them.

As is typical of suburban Dad Sundays, however, we had to keep pushing it off. Baseball, dancing, birthday parties, weather, etc.

Finally, yesterday, we realized it was our time.

I took the kids to the cemetery and we stood at the grave, just talking to my beloved Nana and Poppy.

Tikkanen and Jokinen both remembered them. Lakkanen was born a year after they died, so she never got to know them.

Still, I knew that Nana and Poppy would have been proud of the people that their 3 great-grandchildren (of mine, that is) are becoming.

We reflected on life, death, and the lessons that my grandparents taught me about friendship, love, marriage, and perseverance.

I wondered how they would view the events transpiring today. Though my Poppy was an early adopter, I wasn't sure that he would totally get Blockchain.

All of us were crying and, though I'd had some resistance from some of the kids about going, they all took the moment seriously.

It was really a "mental snapshot" that allowed me to hold them close and realize how fleeting the time is.

I don't think I every truly appreciated the importance of a cemetery for personal reflection until yesterday.

As we left and drove up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, we were discussing what we had experienced, when Paco said "hey, there's a Ferris Wheel, can we go on it?

So, in a moment of spontaneity and an effort to just Carpe Diem it, I took the exit.

Turns out there was a "pop-up carnival" with a bunch of rides (including a mini roller coaster).  I was particularly proud of how we managed our budget and allocated out tickets to maximum usage.

It was a team effort as Tonka gave up one ride.

And, from the top of the Ferris Wheel, we saw a Walmart in the adjacent lot, so, as is our custom, we went to get flavored water and scented candles.

I knew we had created a memory. We joked about "hey cemeteries are supposed to be free, this one trip cost us over $75!" and we had a great bonding experience.

I held them close and I held the memories of the moments even closer.

That night, began Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers) and, as it happens, I was summoned to perform a ritual cleansing (tahara) as part of the burial society (chevra kadisha).

So, mortality was very much on my mind yesterday.

But because of that, I held on to Life and it's beauty with an even greater grip.

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