Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Tombstones or Cemeteries

I love walking around cemeteries and reading the inscriptions on the headstones. I have written about some of my visits, here and here.

Here are some of the interesting headstones I have seen

A cousin of mine died at the age of 50, 10 years ago, and I often go to his grave to visit. This is his headstone- he chose the spot himself, under the trees, alongside the forest. A quiet place to visit- where I sit and think of him.

Cemeteries & Tombstones

 

Acceptance

The following post was written two years ago, when I learned that a close friend of mine was dying. I still struggle with accepting the fact that she is gone, that I can’t hear her laugh and take in the calm she always brought with her when she walked into a room. Acceptance of losing friends is something new to me, I suppose as we age it is to be expected, but she was only 66. A year later I lost another friend suddenly- also 67 years old. Her refrain whenever I would see her was  “it’s all good”- we’re here aren’t we?” I am but it it is not the same here without you. We are forced to accept, there is no choice, but it changes us, leaves us with an empty place that can’t be filled. 

Last Thursday my friend was told by her Doctor, “there is nothing more we can do.” She had been in remission for three years, her recurrence happening just 6 months ago. Her descent into this new reality quicker than any of us, me, her friends, her family, could believe. I am fortunate to never have lost a friend up until now, but am finding I am still in a state of disbelief. It is impossible for me to think that this person whom I have known for ten years, who I see on a regular basis, play Mah Jongg with every week, share in her joys with, who is calm of nature, who lets things roll of her back and doesn’t sweat the small stuff, who is sensitive and kind, who is my friend, will no longer be here. Her laughter silenced, her singing during our Mah Jongg games, her easy laugh no longer heard.

We sat together yesterday, me and three other friends, leaving her room after she fell asleep, to talk and remember happier times together. The trips abroad, grandchildren being born, her love of hiking. The conversation turned to gravesites and headstones, as if we were talking about some abstract concept, not our friend’s impending death. All part of the process I suppose, of acceptance of something none of us want to have to accept. Of something thrust upon us, being forced on us to have to face. Unwilling to have to accept, but left with no other choice.

Acceptance

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

Paula has asked us to find traces of the past in whatever form we choose, saying it does not have to be a distant one, or rich in history; it can be something personal, or it can even have a human form. I have chosen the personal. The photos are old, and not taken by me, but Paula’s theme lit a spark and I wanted to share my traces of the past through her prompt, I hope she won’t mind.

My mother in laws birthday is coming up shortly, she died in 1998 at the age of 79. I had only known her for seven years, but in that time we became close. She had two sons and no daughters, so I chose to be not just a daughter in law, but in some ways a daughter. I called her everyday, some days it was a quick hello and “check in” other times it was a half an hour or more. She lived alone and often spent her days alone. Occasionally she would meet a few of her close girlfriends for lunch, but as the years wore on there was less of that. I remember joining her at one of those lunches, four elegant European ladies, who without even realizing it lapsed into German, their native language, as the lunch wore on. I didn’t say anything until she turned to me and asked what I thought, at which point I burst out laughing and said I hadn’t understood a word for the past ten minutes!

Her life had not been easy. She fled Germany in 1938, making it out on one of the last boats to leave. She was widowed suddenly at the age of 36, when my husband was 10. She remarried 4 years later, but was widowed again at the age of 60. When I met her she had been fighting Ovarian cancer for 5 years, and continued to do so for 7 more. It took me a long time to get used to not picking up the phone to call her after she died, often wanting to share something with her, missing having the opportunity to. Traces of the past, my past, her past.

Traces of the Past

It’s Still Your Birthday, Even if You’re Gone

Today is my brother’s birthday. Or it would have been his birthday were he still alive, though I feel that just because he is gone does not make August 6th no longer his birthday. His age will forever remain at 54, but the date will forever be his birth date. He died by his own hand in February of 2015. I wrote about him on the first anniversary of his death here.He wasn’t married, had no children, and struggled so the last years of his life. Today I choose to remember him before all that, to think of him long ago before the demons set in. To remember him with rose colored glasses on, filtering out the sadness and anger. Remembering him with a smile.82802100-SLD-001-0015

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Cemetery Visit

I went to visit the grave of a cousin last week- he is buried a short drive from where I live, unlike the rest of his family, including his parents, who live hours away.  He died 9 years ago, at the age of 50- I wrote about him, his life and death previous visit here

The cemetery is situated very high up on a hill and this time before I left I decided to drive up to highest point to take in the view.view

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It was so peaceful and quiet, I got out of my car to walk among the headstones. I stopped to read many of them, wondering about the lives of the people buried there. Some of the headstones did  tell me a bit about the person. It is not unusual to see inscriptions that read “Beloved mother or father”, but I found some had more than the customary inscriptions.

This woman had been a teacher and it must have been so much a part of her life it was also included.20160720_125606

This woman was not just a mother, but in the eyes of those who loved her the best one
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This man had not been married I guessed, as there was no inscription for husband. “A Mensch” was written there, its meaning from Yiddish “a person of integrity and honor.”20160720_125753

How wonderful to be remembered as “strong yet gentle”20160720_130536

This headstone held an inscription I had never seen before. Not only was she a wife, mother and grandmother, the Yiddish term for mother in law-shvigger- was also inscribed. What a compliment, since we all know the old jokes about mother in laws and they are usually not so complimentary.20160720_125330

I came to this bench where I sat for a bit, taking in the surroundings and feeling the warm breeze washing over me as I looked out to the mountains in the distance. Thinking of my cousin and remembering him with a smile.20160720_130749

Daily Prompt: Shadow

Shadow: a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface. silhouette, outline, shape, contour, profile.

Shadows can be fun, stretching our bodies into something they are not depending upon where the sun is in the sky.

My body is  sooooo long. 20150329_081726

My head is so small…..132

Shadow: Also used in reference to ominous oppressiveness, or sadness and gloom.

Sometimes it feels like shadows creeping in and around when I think of people who are no longer here. Their shadows haunt, lingering in the corners of my mind, I see their faces, but know they are just shadows, not real.

Fighting for Life

The Daily Prompt: Fight

For many years I  served as a volunteer in the Pastoral Care Department of a hospital. I visited patients and talked with them, sometimes the nature of our conversations was spiritual, other times it was just about whatever was on their mind. There is one patient who will forever stand out in my mind. The day I went to enter her room in August of 2009, the head nurse told me I most likely wouldn’t have luck, she didn’t want visitors, and wasn’t talking to anyone.  Her name was Sammy. She was 21.sammy gabbay8-2009
I walked in and she asked me if I liked make up. Sure did. So she pulled out a giant box filled with every imaginable color of lipstick, blush, and eye shadow you can imagine. The door had been opened to let me in, and through it I went. She was diagnosed with Lymphoma when she was 18, and had undergone countless rounds of Chemotherapy but never went into remission. Her mother rarely came to visit her in the hospital, but her friends did. They traveled over an hour a few days a week and her hospital room would turn into a college dorm room. Laughter, antics, all while she was hooked up to a Morphine drip that should have had her flat out sleeping. I visited her everyday, we put on makeup, trying out new eye shadow colors and lipsticks. She loved lipstick that had a “sparkle” in it- she told me everyone needs a little sparkle in their life. She showed me the jewelry she had ordered online from her hospital bed, all the while telling the Doctors she would not leave the hospital until they agreed to give her a stem cell transplant. They kept telling her it would do no good, she was too weak, it made no sense. But she wouldn’t- couldn’t hear it. In one of the rare times she opened up to me, when the jewelry and the makeup and the laughter were put away, she said flat out It’s not fair, I’m supposed to be in college, going out with my friends, have a boyfriend. I’m not giving in, I’m entitled to have a life- I’m 21. There were no words I could say other than YOU ARE RIGHT. Her determination to live had kept her going longer than any of her doctors had predicted.

Sammy did get her stem cell transplant, and to the surprise of the doctors she did live for almost 2 months afterwards, but the fight was not won. She died in January of 2010. I learned so many lessons from this young girl that I still think of her often. Her determination, her unwillingness to give up, to fight, her ability to change her surroundings into something positive while spending months in a hospital room. Yes, she was cheated out of a life. She was right. But that short life left an impression on all those she touched, that will last our lifetime. And I still wear sparkly lipstick.blowkiss