Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dear Friend,

I had an interesting afternoon looking for you. In my pocket, I had a note with "Lot 35, block 42" written on it and I'll be damned if that note was even a little helpful. For some reason, I had the idea in my head that I'd get to the cemetery and just immediately know where to find your grave. This was a silly thought because I did not attend your funeral back in 2006 and had never before visited your grave site. Useless note in hand (or pocket), I hopped in my car and headed out to the Holy Cross Cemetery with every intention of finding closure. After a stop at Safeway to buy a dozen long stemmed red roses (of a quality that only Safeway could provide), I drove through the cemetery gates and instantly realized that this was going to be harder than I thought.

Several years ago, I went for a walk with my husband in one of the cemeteries in Sonora, CA. I took note of the fact that the cemetery had something like street signs for the crisscrossing paths. At the time, I probably thought it was quaint. This afternoon, however, I realized that those signs were terribly useful. There were no such signs to help me navigate Holy Cross Cemetery. There were no helpful markers, no directory to say "you are here" and give me an idea of where I might find you. There was just an expanse of very similar-looking graves, stretching off in front of me and to the left and right of me. I did not innately know where to find you and so I wandered.

As I was trudging through the crusty snow and the sucking mud, clutching the bouquet of mediocre roses and continuously going in circles, I cheered myself with the thought that you were watching me somehow and getting a laugh. I talked to you in my head and then began talking to you out loud, hoping that you would give me a sign of where to find you. I would have followed a squirrel at that point if I thought it looked like it knew where it was going. Alas, there were no squirrels or whispers from the afterlife. I did find the grave of a young boy who had been accidentally shot and killed when I was in elementary school. I left him a rose. As for the others, immediately before I gave up my search I came upon the grave of a baby boy who had only lived for less than a month. He has your roses. I knew you'd understand.

My dear friend, although it had been years since we last saw each other when I heard of your death, I hope that you somehow always knew that you touched my life. When we moved from Baker, OR to Butte, MT, the transition was frightening and difficult. Everything was different and unfamiliar but your friendship helped me to think of my new town as home. You will forever occupy places in my head and my heart. I can find you there, at least.

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