Photos taken and words written in October 2017. Syracuse, NY.
I chickened out two mornings ago making the excuse about cloud coverage. I was really afraid of the legends that this place was haunted. Would my camera be blown away? Would I see a dark shadow that I could not erase from memory?
My grandmother always used to say “don’t be afraid of the dead, be afraid of the living.” So I pushed forward through the dark and deserted roads, that, I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to be driving on. The office light was on but it was closed. I parked, and took my bridesmaid’s bouquet with me in case I stumbled upon her.
“Lucile?” I called out.
I walked up the east side, grateful that the nimbus had lifted just enough to see some orange. The wind blew me towards her; I knew I was close. My memory of what it was, was that it was flat, barren. I felt like she might like to be buried next to where the sun would rise. I thought about how maybe we were both looking at it together.
I moved on. I found Batman on top of one, “Live a little” on another: both too young to wonder whether it was worth it. I thought I heard bells ringing. I wondered who was buried that was waking from their slumber. Wind chimes. “Isn’t that a bit misleading?” I thought. I always believed that I wanted to be buried, not embalmed, with a bell – because I’m stubborn as hell and will always try to get the last word in.
The leaves lost their crunch in last nights rain. One was floating and I only assumed by an invisible web. I took in the autumn serenity as my toes began to freeze. The office would be open soon – and I could find her. Distracted in my thoughts I wandered in zigzags. With every hundred persons deceased I passed I learned something: everyone here was a hero to someone. Their tombstone gifts said it all. A firefighter, a coach, a mother, a solder. Some marked many generations after their existence. I could live with that reputation.
Two visitors, separate of each other, told me to go back to the east side because there was a whole family of foxes. I didn’t see a one. I saw some squirrels, and then I remembered that face that called me one, and that he was a fox, my fox. I then remembered my grandmother’s words again and realized I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was afraid of dying with out ever knowing true, lasting love.
Inside the office, I learned where she was buried – it was right where the wind was taking me, yet when I saw it, was completely different from last time. Bushes were planted, a mausoleum nearby, and a tall marker for her and now her husband, Edward. Once I saw her name I collapsed. “I love you.” I said. Memories of my mentor flooding through but mostly just her voice saying sweetly “Amanda, my Amanda.” I was angry with myself for not calling sooner, for not keeping up, for having the intention to organize her files as a gift to her but not having actually done so.
Six months before she passed she said she’d like me to call her anytime. She’d like to be a mentor to me. I was heartbroken then, too. “Find someone who loves you just a little more than you love him or her,” she would tell me. I have yet to find that. Lucille was my coach, she taught me how to feel fully. She made me realize how special I was when all the kids would just call me weird. I wanted for some words of wisdom to pass through the wind – in lieu of words I got heartache. Heartache at the loss, the loneliness and wishing someone could just tell me what to do.
Through the characters she helped me portray, advice, words I wrote, the bullies she helped me have compassion for, a word came to mind: resiliency. Do it. Don’t over think it. Love fully, love until your heart bursts. Follow-through. Life is too short to not try, to not feel, to not give, to not love. As I was pulling away I heard it. “I’ll always be here for you.” So maybe with that, I have found true love.