Monday, August 18, 2014

When only a stone remains

I took Toby for a walk the other day. It was much more humid out than it looked, so we took a short cut home through the cemetery.

Normally, we enjoy roaming through the grave stones. Toby sniffs for rabbits and deer droppings (and rolls in them, if he finds them), while I read the inscriptions on the oldest stones. Many of the stones pre-date the civil war. I like imagining what their lives might have been like, and always wonder what they would think of how we live now.

Many of the surnames on the stones are familiar. Names such as Reading, Kuhl, Dilts and Case, all of whom were prominent in the early development of the town, and still have family in the vicinity today. Two of Big Brother's cousins, in fact, are Kuhl descendents on their mother's side.

Then there are the stones so worn away, the inscription is illegible. Both name and date are gone, obliterated by the passage of time. I always feel bad for whoever put those stones up, probably thinking it meant their loved ones would be remembered in perpetuity.

The stones that are the saddest to see are the little tiny ones, for a baby or young child. Most of the family plots have one or more. One family I noticed seemed to have lost six out of seven children, probably to illnesses that are easily cured or prevented now. Their parents' heartbreak is still palpable, a century later.

In general, though, I don't find cemeteries to be sad or scary places. If anything, I find them to be a simple reminder from those who have gone before me to live life fully, while I still can. As I'll be turning forty-seven later this week, the reminder is a timely one.

So here is my advice to you: the next time you pass a cemetery, don't think of it a creepy place worthy of a horror flick. Instead, consider it an invitation to check-in with yourself. Ask yourself, am I spending enough of my time and energy on the things that are most important to me in life? If the answer is no, it might be time to think about what it would take to make that change.

Whatever it is you want from life, the time to commit to it is now, today, this very minute. There is no better moment to let go of the negative, to embrace the positive, to believe in yourself and your own power. Am I saying you should buck your responsibilities and go running off into the sunset? Am I overlooking the fact that you might already be working as hard as you can to get to where you want to be in life? No, of course not. There is a delicate balance between our responsibilities to others and our responsibility to ourselves that needs to be maintained. But I am suggesting that today is the day to start weeding out all the things you do and thoughts you think that are counter productive, that prevent you in some way from being your most authentic self. Think of it as a little spring cleaning for the soul, if you will.

One day, all of us will have a stone, just like these. The question is, will yours be a sad monument to hopes and dreams left too late, or a celebration of a life well lived?

Even if you don't know where you want to go in life, following these simple steps will surely help you find your way. 

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