As I drove into town, I immediately recognized the drug store where my grandmother told us she’d go to the soda fountain as a child. A little further on the right was the restaurant where we’d eaten the day the three of us visited her childhood hometown. But neither the soda fountain nor a meal was my destination this morning. On the edge of downtown is the cemetery where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried. I entered the grounds and intuited the spot though I have not been here for well over a decade.
My destination today was sacred ground.
The chills, tears, disequilibrium – that indescribable not-quite physiological – response that signifies connection with the spirit overcame me. The graves of my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents are sacred ground. Lowering myself to the ground, I sat cross-legged between the generations letting memories and sensations flow through me. The spirit that binds us together, who flows through creation, whose breath we all exhale, inhale, and which gives life to earth, and all of us born of her womb, wrapped arms of unconditional love around me.
Having been closest in life to my grandmother, I remembered her bony hugs and her laugh. I recalled her on the front porch, shoulders slumped, each time we left her at the end of visits. I recalled the tiny, blue plastic car on her end table that she said Davey, my then-toddler brother, placed there with the pronouncement, “This goes here.” And it remained there until her death. Oh, and the way she rolled her pillows when making the bed, and the bowls of vanilla ice cream in her kitchen before bedtime, and other echoes lit up my brain.
Mostly, however, I felt as I sat on sacred ground. She delighted in me, my siblings, and her only child, my father, “Alley Bird.” The delight of the holy permeated my being as surely as I felt the grass beneath my body. I noted the joy I’d felt when Maggie and I brought her to Versailles, Kentucky – the town of her birth and youth. She told took us to the soda fountain where she sat as a teenager and to multiple sites of her youth. We experienced the joy of reciprocating her love by listening and delighting in her early life.
But life is not all delight.
On the trip to Versailles, we also visited the grave of her father and mother – those who now shared sacred ground with her. I remembered his gun death at only 44 in 1926. He was closing up the grocery alone when he died. The big-city Lexington newspapers and police debated for a week whether it was suicide or an accident. In the end, the inquest concluded it was an accident. My grandmother would have been a young woman at the time. The depth of her sorrow and embarrassment that it might have been suicide was palpable even in her old age. Her grief is sacred, too, and it flowed through my being.
In time my meditative existence on the sacred ground within the Versailles Cemetery came to an end. I got up and quietly walked back to my car. Having reconnected with those who came before, my sacred pilgrimage of renewal and reset of my emotional, spiritual, and physical being continues.