Why Does It Always Rain In Graveyards?
Some believe that love can transcend time
Why does it always rain in graveyards?
Why does it always rain in graveyards? Of course, the reality is that it doesn’t. It’s just a trick of the mind; an illusion based on perception. It is raining today, though. The top of my head brushes the inside of my hood as I look upwards. The sky is blue-black, sheets of water drifting on the wind. I sigh. Nobody notices as I am alone; it’s me and rows of tombstones that form uneven lines. If I was looking for a simile then I suppose it would something about teeth.
The procession of gravestones are staring at me. That’s how it seems with not a soul about to dispute this. Rotating my body and shuffling my feet, I scan the horizon. The site is littered with trees. Mainly yew, I think. I’m no expert but I seem to remember that this type lives for centuries, often pre-dating the location they find themselves gracing. They also flank either side of the winding road that runs through the cemetery, dividing the area into discreet sections. There are cars squirreled away in places taking care not to be double-parked. That would be a sin in a place like this. I can see people over the other side filing towards a plot. They are in the Muslim section. The rules are different there and bodies have to be buried within seventy-two hours of death. No embalming allowed.
There’s a distinct lack of trees in that bit. Not sure why. My focus doesn’t linger on the mourners for long. Seconds only. There’s an awful feeling of defiling someone’s privacy by looking at them for an undue period of time. People are here to pay their respects. Concentrate on the job in hand. Leave them to their grief. Turning back, my gaze returns to the headstone in front of me. All those dates etched in marble. Date of birth, date of death, married to loving husband Alan for eight wonderful years – a life in numbers.
I feel like a cigarette but you don’t see folks smoking in cemeteries. Maybe it’s thought of as disrespectful. I suppose flicking fag ash onto Holy ground might unbalance the ledger; detract from all the good work done over the years. I wonder if people smoke in Heaven. Maybe it’s banned. Maybe there’s a covered area outside for smokers like you get in pubs. A gazebo amongst clouds.
Places like this have been in heavy demand for the last few years. All those excess deaths. So many souls taken by Covid. In Brazil, they couldn’t dig new graves quickly enough. President Bolsonaro never seemed to care much. Maybe that’s why he lost the election to Lula. He’s legged it to Florida now. What goes around, comes around. I heard that “This England” is quite an eye opener. Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock grappling with the Pandemic. Life and death decisions. Drama. Nope, can’t watch that shite. I’m sure it’s admirable as a project with the noblest of intentions but it sounds to me like Kenneth Branagh doing an impression of a turtle for most of the runtime. Mary never had much time for politics. Watching Theresa May dancing to Abba put the tin lid on it. She always said that all politicians are crooks.
I look down at my shoes. They are wet from the grass. People do that in graveyards – look down at their shoes. My eyes wander back to the task in hand. I am here to remember. My wife has been gone these two years since. Makes me think of the last section of “A Christmas Carol” – the scene with a faux grave belonging to the ill-fated Tiny Tim. His father Bob sobbing wanting him to have a decent burial site with a wonderful view. He needn’t have worried as old Scrooge sees the errors of his ways and repents. We should all repent from time to time.
There are roses in a metal holder I refreshed earlier. They poke out of holes in the container. Five pounds for a dozen from Tesco. Folks spend a lot on floral tributes. Mary would not sanction such frivolous spending. The ruby red flowers do the job. I spend longer here now than at other times. In a few weeks it will be Christmas again. That was when she went - Yuletide. Contracted a virus; one of many viruses in circulation. The tiniest of infinitesimally small things. Eventually ended up in a coma. I sat with her for weeks. We all hoped she would wake. She never did. Slipped away in the early hours. I never got to say goodbye. That hurts.
I used to talk to her. It was strange at first, what with her eyes closed and seemingly asleep. I understand patients like this can still hear. It was hard to tell. I reminisced. There was our wedding day. Dancing to “Avalon” by Roxy Music. Ah…Brian Eno. Genius. And the sleepy-eyed lead singer. Brian. Brian Ferry. We moved in gradual circles around the dance floor, so many staring, smiling. That’s one of the strange things about today. Driving here, listening to the radio, a dedication was read out on air. It went along the lines of “…and this next song is for Alan from Mary. She says she knows you were there….” And then our song was played. That song. All a bit cryptic but it made me feel weird for a while. It must have been a different Alan and Mary. Mary’s dead. Spirits don’t contact deejays from beyond the grave. There’s always an explanation. Ghosts aren’t real.
There was the day we met our beloved pooch for the first time. A downbeat German Shepherd just lying down, feeling sorry for himself at the rescue centre. Mary had to have him. There was a bond straight away. The way he looked at us. Beguiling. Such a beautiful animal. Handsome. And Max became one of the family. She doted on that dog. I always wondered if it was compensating for us not having children. We tried. A couple of years into our marriage, she had fallen pregnant. Ended with a miscarriage. Our daughter would be six years old by now. I’m not sure my wife ever recovered from that. I would catch her in moments of melancholy just staring into space. Miles away. We kept trying for kids. In the meantime, we had a canine surrogate. One that chased sticks in the park and lay at your feet in the lounge. Dog days.
Mary would have made a great mum. She used to play with our niece and nephew; my brother John’s kids. They loved her going round to their house. Games of catch with Max in the garden. The three of them would throw a tennis ball just high enough so that the woofer couldn’t catch it. The laughter and gigging would go on for ages. I would watch and, every so often, Mary would glance at me and smile. It was our wordless “I love you”. Afterwards, the adults would drink red wine around the kitchen table talking about the inanities of their respective day. There was always something to moan about. We never realised how good we had it. Life can be like that. Teach you a lesson.
It’s getting on and darkness will be here soon. I pull my coat tighter to keep out the cold. I don’t feel alone anymore. I sense a presence other than my own. That’s a precarious sensation in a graveyard. Turning, I see a little girl with her back to me. She is wearing a blue and yellow patterned, zip-up coat and bobble hat. She appears to be staring at a grave. She is on her own. I peer all around for grown-ups but there’s nobody else here. I take two steps towards her as she spins around, gracefully. She has an angelic face. Blonde hair creeps out from under her hat.
“Should you be on your own? Is your mommy close by?” I sound concerned.
She looks coy and glances at the ground. After a few seconds, she looks up again and nods shyly.
“Ah OK. Maybe I should take you to your parents. Would that be good with you? I just need a minute to finish here.” Again she thinks about it and then says “Yes. OK.” Before looking away.
I return to my quiet homage for a few moments more. Closing my eyes, I think of silence. I am at peace.
“She knows you were there. Mary loves you.”
Time stops as I process the sentence uttered from elsewhere. There’s only the two of us here. I open my eyes, slowly turn towards where the little girl is….and…..she’s gone. I move forward, the grass showering my feet with rainwater. She must be hiding behind a tombstone or something. I scour the nearest rows, staring hard at anywhere that could hide a child. She’s not here. Surely she couldn’t have run that far, that quickly. There is a man and a woman both holding umbrellas a couple of hundred feet away in the distance. They are gliding between graves. I shout across and ask whether they saw a small child just now. They look at me like I am some sort of lunatic; eyes wide and shocked faces. They shake their heads and turn away. It’s another odd moment in what’s become the most curious of days.
I feel guilty for not taking her straight to her parents. I should call the police. Not sure how much I can tell them but I will do my best. I’ll do it on hands free on the journey back. My car’s close by as I head to the Audi. My mind is replaying the sentence only recently uttered. “She knows you were there. Mary loves you.” The child’s face swims across my conscience. She looked like Mary. Why didn’t I notice that straight away? I light a cigarette.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, I strap my seatbelt on and turn the ignition key. I stare into the rear view mirror. After all that’s happened, perhaps I will see Mary’s face staring back. The only reflection is from my own, tired eyes. The car radio comes on. “Stand by Me” by Ben E King is playing. I whisper “I miss you, Mary.” Nobody replies. Mist rolls across the graveyard as cars leave before nightfall.
Image free to use at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cemetery#/media/File:Nurmijarvi_cemetery.jpg