We spend the afternoon on a quest for a grave in a cemetery. My Uncle George, on my mama’s side, had taken it into his mind that after 51 years of his Grandmother lying in an unmarked grave in the Enon Cemetery, he just could no longer live with himself until whatever dust of her mortal remains, was properly marked. One member of the Cemetery association had suggested that he simply pick a vacate spot, erect the headstone, and call it Grandma’s resting place. Uncle George still was reacting as if someone had walked up and spit in his face every time he thought about the incident, which seemed to be right regular, or at least every time he visited us in Pine Hill. All 410 pounds of him went red, then yellow, back to red in the face whenever he talked about it. I saw him now going through the same emotions as he tried to squeeze out of the little Hyundai he and his party had driven up in.
The members of the Enon Cementry, address Enon Road, Pine Hill, Alabama, had been very short sited 30 years ago when the waist high chain link fence had been erected. The esteemed elders had not taken into consideration that the economy of the Southern States of America would allow most people to become so well fed. I watched from the vantage point of the small knoll just inside the fence and to the left, as Uncle George, his friends named Tipsy and Annette, all took their turns squeezing through the swinging gate. Tipsy had the misfortune of tearing her dress almost completely from her body as she missed judged how much a turn radius she needed to clear the drop-down iron clamp that usually held the gate in place to the fence; that is when it was not acting as a weapon. I could tell from the way it hung from its frame, that it had encountered quite a few Tipsies in its day, either in their Sunday frocks, or in their Caskets. I had noticed it when Mama and I arrived at the Cemetery. As I reached to lift it up, it resisted. I had thought at the time a nice sketting of WD40 would not come amiss, but now I knew better. It enjoyed its lot in life.
Uncle George had insisted that Mama be there because she was the only person still alive from the day that his Grandmother was buried. Never mind that Mama was only 1 at the time. He expected her to know exactly where she was buried. Mama had brought along a shovel because she thought she remembered that the top of the casket was covered in bricks and mortar just below the ground for some reason, maybe as a vault of sorts. I guess they were going to dig around for awhile. There were at least 6 acres inside the fence to cover. Now I felt sure we could eliminate the places that were already marked. Then I had an awful thought. What if someone had buried someone else 6 inches from the spot were “Grandma” Uncle George was? When the grave diggers were digging the grave, what if they had just barely missed her? Kind of like when you come a hair from sideswiping a parked car? Since they weren’t checking beside the marked graves, it WAS a possibility. A possibility that I decided to keep to myself.
As I looked around the wooded, peaceful last resting place for the 60 or so souls in slumber there, I wondered if they knew how lucky they were. The problems that were bombarding me could never touch them. As most of the headstones indicated, most of the residents of this beautiful place had lived a long live. Their lives had been internet free, terrorists free, global warming free. As I wondered along, smiling as I heard George and Mama fussing about something, I realized that each marker represented a life with their own sets of hope and dreams and day to day drama. Just like in my life, no different, no smaller, just theirs. And now we assume that when you are lying beneath that tombstone, those troubles are no longer able to touch you. What if we are wrong? What if that is what hell is REALLY all about? You lie there and see everything going on to the ones you love and can’t do anything about it. Or maybe the problems you died with still haunt you. Maybe the things you didn’t get to say, or the things you did to the people you loved and you wished you could undo them, live in you after death, like a flame burning in your soul. Maybe that’s what hell really is, and maybe that’s why people see ghost. The ghost has the fire burning hot enough to try time after time to right the wrongs.
A slight breeze brought the smell of a wild honeysuckle vine in full bloom back to me. It roused me back to the present and out of that place I had found myself pondering, that place mere mortals were not allowed to go. Before I surrendered the last of the thoughts of heaven and hell, I said a quick prayer and hoped those poor souls could at least smell the sweet honeysuckle while their fires burned. There was some comfort in that thought.
By now a good 15 minutes had passed and Tipsy, Annette and Uncle George had all broken out in a full sweat and were currently debating which one had to help seat one another on the various concrete benches sitting around the Pearson families set of graves. Mrs. Joyce Pearson sat quite often around the graves and I knew that if the benches could hold her weight, my relations would probably be okay today as well. I guess if one of my group were to fall off the bench we could roll them as far as possible, maybe even to the gate, if they could crawl a little, therefore they could maybe pull themselves up link by link. Upon further review of the fence, I wondered if this theory had been put to the test as several links were rather bent.
The discussion around the bench was woeful indeed. The day’s labor had not revealed the whereabouts of the unknown tomb. The group was voting on whether to wait for a day not so hot to continue and maybe someone would have a better idea that involved less physical work. I was wondering if I knew anyone with a high-tech plane that could maybe do a quick pass over to map all the bodies. I remembered the conversation I enjoyed in a bar a year ago with a guy that was the commander of a “Side Scan Sonar Underwater Recovery Team.” To bad we were not looking for a lost submarine in the Alabama River. That was cool as hell to me at the time, so I decided to get better acquainted with the guy. He had declared himself always in a “ready” state and equipped for almost ANY situation, including but not limited to, night operations. I would have to see what he thought about cemeteries in South Alabama and high-tech operations. Another story, that one. He really didn’t look quite like the average dirt road rider… I cataloged that thought in the mental file cabinet labeled “Interesting men I have known and would like to revisit.”
Another terrible thought then began to form through the haze of the now reaching 100 degrees in the shade temp. Several of the older graves simply had bricks laid around them. Since the grass was mowed regularly, what if the minimum wage grass cutter had kicked them around as he cut the grass, to save the blades you know… and what if there was no body underneath any of the bricks. I mean the grass had been cut for at least 30 years with a power mower…. I decided to keep that thought to myself as well.
As we finally all made our way back to the graveled parking lot, where the vehicles waited, boiling in the midday sun, since as Tipsey said, “We have air conditioning in this here new Hyundai so we don’t have to let the flies in, you CAN’T leave the windows down.” I paused to wipe a speck of bird mess off Miss Minnie Mayo’s headstone with a magnolia leaf I had picked up. At least I didn’t have to go to piano lessons today with Miss Minnie and her antenna. She had an antenna that someone had given her off an old wrecked vehicle that she used to point to the music on the Piano. Sometimes the thing would spear the sheet music like a dagger and you would have to guess at the notes in that spot. Sometimes she would hit you on the knuckles with it, accidently I am sure, you would hate to have to call it child abuse. Although, come to think on it, blood could be spilled if you didn’t hold your hands at a high enough arch. Hence, why I might be such a good typist now. Years later, piano practice and Miss Minnie was NOT on my problem list. Looking back, if that was my biggest problem, life was good back then too.
If I was right about my newest take on hell and that whole hell fire thing, I had better start mending my broken bridges now. I had a lot of back tracking to do.