Down the street from my house is Greendale Cemetery, bucolic despite its somber purpose. Huge arched gates frame the entrance. The meandering roads and paths that travel the gentle hills were once meant for horse and carriage and so, are narrow and graceful, barely wide enough for the landscaping truck to fit. Graves go back to the 1700’s; names on many stones are worn away, and still other, recent ones, have photographs imbedded in the stones, the living faces of the now dead. There are the children’s stones, carved angels and lambs sleeping on top; a stone motorcycle; a lion clutching a globe; and married couples interred together, husbands and wives often dying within days or months of each other as if they couldn’t bear to be apart. And because it is the season, the purple and pink rhododendrons are in explosive bloom, and trees, some as old as three hundred years, offer wide canopies of shade. It is an exquisitely peaceful place to walk—which is what I’ve been doing there for the past couple of days.Memorial Day weekend—all the veterans’ graves bear American flags. As I walk, I find myself drawn to these graves, reading the names, noting the marker in the ground that denotes which war that soldier fought in. Revolutionary War veterans, Civil War veterans—one soldier who died at Gettysburg, WWI and WWII veterans, and Korea and Vietnam. Normally, I wouldn’t spend so much times giving honor, normally I would quickly walk the loops, intent on exercise, normally I wouldn’t find myself tearing up by the grave of a stranger who had died in battle. But I’m already feeling a bit fragile this Memorial Weekend, my sadness close to the surface.
My kids are with my ex-husband at his family member’s wedding. A wedding that I imagined myself at when we received news of the engagement a year ago. All year, whenever I imagined May, I imagined the wedding. Now, of course, I am in my new home, alone, and not there with them. I’ve been avoiding Facebook all weekend because friends and relatives of my ex-husband have been posting pictures of the wedding and reception. Most painful, are the pictures my ex-husband posts of himself with our kids, all dressed up and beautiful and there without me. Pictures of the wedding reopen the wounds I’ve been trying to close these past six months because they remind me of my own wedding, and those very same people who attended our celebration. And I am reminded of the death of my dream, our dream that began with such surety and hope.Much like the feeling I get as I walk through the cemetery surrounded by thousands of people who were like me: full of hope for the future and buoyant determination and a belief that they were doing the absolute right thing. A marriage doesn’t simply die on the day divorce papers are signed. Dreams are slow to recede. All those couples buried together, so many stones reading, “Joined in eternity.” It stops my heart because I wonder and fear: Will I be buried alone? This isn’t meant to be maudlin—in a way, my grief commemorates the life that once was. Much like the flags and markers beside the veterans’ stones.