Saturday, May 24 will be two years from the day my dad died. I’ve been thinking about him. The other day I saw something that made me smile and I immediately thought of telling him about it. A vendor at the Farmer’s Market was munching contentedly; a carrot in one hand, a bottle of hot sauce in the other. I imagined telling my dad the story and knew he’d think it was funny but in less time then it takes to read this sentence, I remembered he was gone. With an ache in my chest, I knew I couldn’t tell him about it.
I haven’t been going to his grave as often as I did the first year after he died. It’s been a few months at least, and it’s been on my mind to get down there.
This weekend I had the opportunity. Rem and I were house-sitting for my mom and on Sunday morning, he needed an early-morning ride to the ferry. He was heading into San Francisco to take photos at the annual Bay to Breakers footrace. After dropping him off at 5:40 a.m., Molly and I went down to Fernwood.
The sky was just growing light. A thin, grey comforter of fog was draped along the upper slopes of Mt. Tam. Molly was delighted to be out of the car and went up the path ahead of me.
The hillside is covered with rattlesnake grass, wildflowers and eucalyptus trees. Oh, and some poison oak too.
It is only as I got closer that the stone marker was visible.
I laid some flowers and cried some tears. I told him that Caitlin was graduating at Chico and that was where Mom was. I talked about how sick Beau has been but that we’re so relieved he’s improving. I sang two songs and watched some hawks circling up high above the trees.
As I walked carefully back across the hillside to the path, I searched for feathers but didn’t see any.
Molly was full of energy and I had plenty of time to wander around the cemetery, something I kept thinking about doing and never taking the time in my many visits down there. Molly romped ahead, sniffing around and happy as could be. I was thinking about my dad and how much I miss him. I thought about how many lives were represented by the stones around me.
One message caught my eye and made me smile.
It all comes out in the wash and a little chocolate never hurts
I think I would have liked this woman!
The positive attitude that came up with those words lifted my spirits and made me try to re-frame my sadness. I focused on all the wonderful years I lived with my dad in my life instead of the last three; the year of struggling with cancer and the two years since he died.
It made me think that although these gravestones represented loss and grief they also represented peoples lives. Many stones have a name and two dates and little else, yet whole lives are lived in the space between those two dates.
As I followed a trail, I found a section of older graves and stones that were cracked and broken. Some gravestones only show one date or a very short span of days. Others list the age of the deceased and many lived short lives. The oldest year I noted was 1907.
On their website, Fernwood states the cemetery has existed since the late 1800’s. Again, instead of thinking of all of those people dying, I walked around and thought of all those people living.
I saw this fragment of stone that just showed a single date. I don’t know if Valentine’s Day was remembered as the birthday of a loved one, or the date someone lost a loved one.
Walking around, exploring the cemetery, was very peaceful. I looked through the trees at the view of Richardson Bay.
Looking down the hill I see the pyramid skylight on the Fernwood Funeral Home, reminding me of the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Some things I had glimpsed while driving past and now I had I time for a closer look.
Like the Buddha statue in a tree.
A rustic gate open to a path curving around the hillside.
A beautifully carved wooden Buddha sits atop a rough base created from a tree stump. In spite of missing a finger, he was very serene.
Little talismans have been left in his hands: a bit of shell, a rhinestone rabbit with a wreath of rhinestone flowers, and a sweet little green clay cat. with a pink neck scarf.
Dia de los Muertos figures dangle on a cord around his neck, holding a dried orchid in place.
Molly and I have had a nice hike and I was in much better emotional shape than when we’d arrived.
Time has softened the blow of losing my dad. The grief and sadness aren’t gone but they aren’t here all the time either.
Our family will be gathering to celebrate my brother Beau’s birthday on Sunday. I imagine there will be lots of good food and laughter. We’ll probably share stories about Papa, and catch up with each others lives. If we think of something that he would have found funny, I believe it will honor his memory if we share it and enjoy a good laugh.
Here is a link to the post I wrote last year at this time. That post includes links to other posts written about my dad.
Thank you for your visit.