Tombstones lean into each other, as though in death family members still long to whisper secrets. Each marker represents a life, and I wonder. Did this woman cherish her children? Did she weep at her infant’s death or bare her grief in stoic rigidity? This man, who lived to be almost eighty, did he throw back his head in laughter over a pint? Did he labor in the fields or at a factory? Did his days tally anger or joy? Did he pull the blanket of death tightly around him in those last moments, or did he fight for each moment of life?
I stand before this couple, together for eternity. Was their marriage happy? Did they linger close to one another in the mornings, cocooning for warmth before each sunrise? Did he smooth stray tendrils of her hair away from her face and sneak a morning kiss? Did she pull him down in playful lust? Did they sing sweet greetings as they reluctantly left their warm bed to build up the fires, tend to the children, or head to the barn? Did she glance out the window as she did her chores, longing for a glimpse of him as he toiled through his day? Did he rush back for his midday meal, hungry for her smile? Each night, did she reach for him in her sleep, entwine her legs with his for warmth? Did he awaken at midnight to watch her soft breath puff from her yielding lips? As the years flowed one into the other, did he notice the lines around her eyes when she laughed? Did she mind the gray in his morning stubble or the thinning of his hair? During those final moments, did they clutch hands and pledge everlasting love?
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman