Today I want to share a rather poignant photo with you – one that I took on Saturday in East Union Cemetery in Manteca, CA.
This carving was at the top of the face of the tombstone…actually, the same image was on several of the tombstones. It was interesting as I walked the cemetery to see that certain motifs and images were popular on tombstones for a while, then a different image seemed to gain favor until it was eventually replaced by another. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising – because the same thing is happening with the people who are buried there and who visit them. The ones who are now visiting those already buried will eventually be buried, too, and another set of people will come to replace them. Cemeteries are wonderful reminders of the great cycle of life.
I liked this particular image, though. Or rather, I should say it spoke to me. As you look at the two hands, you’ll note that the grip is not a tight one. In fact, if anything, the hand of the lady on the left seems to be withdrawing or slipping out of the grasp of the man’s hand on the right. Farewell, indeed.
As I looked at it, I was struck with a sharp sense of melancholy. In just a few days, I’ll be leaving for an internship in Africa where I’ll be for 7-1/2 weeks. It will be almost twice the longest period of time that my wife and I have been apart since we were married way back in the stone age (1970). I can’t bear the thought of being away from her for so long. When I am not with her, it is as if my life is less than 50% present.
Please understand that I don’t always act that way. Like everyone else, when I am in the presence of those I love, I tend to take them for granted. But this picture reminded me that such will not always be the case, and when the time comes for our hands to part, when the moment of farewell comes, I’ll wish I’d not spent these 7-1/2 weeks apart from her. At that moment, I feel certain that I’ll wish we’d never been apart…and that we never would be.
On the other hand, if there is a farewell, somewhere there must also be a coming back together. From the dawn of human history we’ve been captivated by the idea of a life beyond this one…a far better life in most cultures. The Babylonians and Egyptians believed it, as did the Incas, Mayans and native Americans. There is something in us that insists that there must be something beyond where farewells are no more.
I expect that I shall return safe and sound from Africa and that my wife and I will have more time here. But just in case that isn’t the case, I hope she knows that I have cherished our years together more than I could ever explain with mere words.
Someday, you, too, will say “Farewell” to those you love the most. If you are with them tonight, please go tell them now what they mean to you and how you love them! Don’t let your hands part in the final farewell with those words being unspoken!
There is not too much time…but there certainly is never enough.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: baby rattlesnakes are born in August and September. It’s a bad time to be in the brush, because baby rattlers don’t have the discipline to keep from injecting a victim with their full load of venom…a skill they learn as they grow older.