Years ago I convinced my wife, Robin that the two of us should make some post death arrangements. She thought the idea was somewhat grotesque in nature but, always a practical sort, she agreed with the notion. We added some beneficiaries names to accounts, registered titles to property with survivor’s names added and made decisions regarding our wishes for preferred types of burials.
We both decided that we wanted small services and were unanimous in our desires to be cremated. Neither of us had given much thought to a grave marker or plot and, because we were to be cremated, we realized that a choice of a resting place was not necessary; but then again was it something we wanted. After much discussion we reached a decision; we wanted two plots and one stone grave marker, and we wanted it to be in an Arkansas cemetery not far from our home in Noel, Missouri. Our marker would be only feet away from the symbols left in memory of my great grandparents.
I frequently visit that old and isolated cemetery where some of the older stones record the deaths of civil war soldiers. I often walk the rows and read the names on the markers wondering who those departed souls once were and how they lived. After my walk, and when I begin to tire, I unfold a small canvass chair and sit in front of the marker that has inscribed on it, “Robin Fine, born March 31, 1949, died July 14, 2013.” With paper on my lap and with pen in hand I spend hours resting in the folding chair, just writing about whatever comes to mind.
I write about the beautiful trees, the green grass and the blue sky where white fluffy clouds call home. I write about the birds in the trees and I record my thoughts as I savor the odor of the blooming flowers that grow just a few feet from the smooth piece of stone.
Although I often remain there for hours and hours I don’t feel alone as I have the memory of Robin to keep me company. I sometimes feel as though the many others resting there are watching me, wondering what I may be jotting down on those pieces of paper.
I recently sat in the cemetery’s quiet solitude, opened my notebook and placed the pen on the paper. It was a cool summer’s evening and the north breeze that washed against my face could be heard in the trees as it gently caused the leaves to move against each other. The sun had only an hour or so of life before it relinquished its hold over the world and the night would be born once again.
As many thoughts came into my mind a smile came over my face when I remembered the discussion Robin and I had about the marker. We decided, somewhat comically, that we would have the stone placed on our plots well prior to our deaths and all the pertinent information, excluding the dates of our deaths, would be inscribed. Robin, at least well before her death, would frequently show friends photos of her marker with her name visible. She would laugh as she described the marker and the cemetery.
I once more silently read the inscription on the marker and read my name, “Stanley Fine, born August 5, 1949, died:” well that information was not yet known; or was it. I couldn’t help but wonder what date might eventually be placed there on that piece of granite.
I must have dozed off as I awoke and found that the daylight had almost completely left the sky and the darkness would very soon envelope me. The notebook and pen had fallen from my lap and lay on the ground by my feet. I rubbed my face as if the sleep could be wiped away and as I leaned down to retrieve the dropped items my eyes stopped as they moved past the marker that rested only a few feet from me. Something appeared different about the stone.
I stared at the stone and the words inscribed on it as I fumbled for the pen and notebook. At first I couldn’t find the source of my concern and I tried to concentrate more and more as I knew something wasn’t the same. Then, and after no more than a minute, I saw it; there was etching on the stone that had not been there a short while ago.
“Stanley Fine, born August 5, 1949, died December 26, 2016.” How could that be; who had etched that date into the cold granite block. Just then I shook and as my eyes opened widely, I awoke. I realized that I had been asleep and this was all a dream, but there was only one way to prove that. I had to look at the marker, and the date beside my name.
I slowly turned my head and as my eyes came upon the stone I looked at the space beside my name. There was no final date etched there. It had been but a dream, or had it. To this day I wonder if that was merely an eerie vision born from sleep, or was it a premonition. I suppose I’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for me.
As I left the quiet of the cemetery I turned to give the cold granite stone one more look and there perched atop that rock rested a Turdus migratorius. I somehow knew it would be there waiting for my return.
I continue to sit beside the granite stone on summer evenings and record the things that come to mind and I can’t help but wonder about that once seen ominous date on the stone.