Kneeling On The Grass
The summer solstice came unnoticed this year. The weather should have been my first clue. After a rather cool and wet spring, June 21st saw temperatures rise to 80 degrees under blue skies scattered with a few soft cumulus clouds. For the arrival of summer, the day was surely a candidate for perfection.
Typically, I like to at least make a mental note of the change of seasons, however yesterday I had other things on my mind. I had planned to meet my three sisters at 10 a.m. in my hometown of Bradford for the committal of my father’s ashes to the earth in an unmarked grave alongside my mother.
I hadn’t been back to that cemetery since my mom’s passing in April of 2012. I parked along the roadside and walked toward the two vehicles parked near the grave. In one sat a high school classmate, Greg, who runs the local funeral home. Standing outside the other vehicle, a pickup truck with the words “Excavating Service” printed across the front, was a familiar man from my youth whose name I could not place.
“I guess I’m the first to arrive,” I said to the man as I approached.
“What’s your name?” he asked in a heavy, old-time Vermont accent.
“Kevin Rose,” I replied.
This man had known me from childhood through high school, but I didn’t remember his name and he didn’t recognize the changes that time had brought to my appearance over the intervening years since we’d last seen each other long ago.
“You look a lot different these days,” he said softly before turning to Greg to make arrangements for covering my dad’s grave later that day.
Look different? I suppose I do.
Greg and I chatted for a few minutes before my sisters began to arrive. First, Glenda and her finance, Eric, a man who’d grown up just up the dirt road that ran alongside my childhood home. Next came Melanie, strolling slowly through the grass with the minister from our local Methodist church who’d come to say a few words for the committal. Finally, Cheryl arrived with her daughter and three grandchildren.
Dad’s ashes were contained inside a simple green marble box sitting on a small table that stood atop a piece of plywood covering the 18-inch square grave. Immediately alongside was Mom’s grave, unmarked with the exception of a small rose bush whose origins are unknown to us. We guessed it had been placed by one of Mom’s sisters.
Unlike more formal funeral or burial services, yesterday’s gathering was unscripted, with the exception of the poems that the minister read and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. After she spoke, there was a long silence followed by awkward conversation and random recollections of Dad’s final days.
A few moments later, the minister left and the family agreed to meet at my sister Melanie’s house for lunch. I was about to turn and walk away when Greg asked if I’d like to lower Dad’s remains into his grave.
Standing in t-shirt, shorts, and sandals on that glorious first day of summer, I was handed the green marble box with Dad’s only earthly remains sealed inside. There was a heft to the stone as I’m sure that the ashes of Dad’s body contributed little to the weight in my hands.
Slowly, I knelt to the ground and carefully lowered the box with the same care I’d used to place Dad into his bed during his final days. Centering the box at the base of the square earthen hole, I was reluctant to let go, lifting my hands back up as slowly as I had lowered them down.
I’d had nothing profound to say at yesterday’s gathering, but that moment, with my knees on the grass and my Dad in my hands, will undoubtedly have an immensely profound impact on the life I continue to live.
Thank you, Dad.