It was a beautiful day this Monday. Skies were deep blue, the sun shone so brightly you need sunglasses, even at this time of year. The breeze was soft and gentle, more like a whisper or a beckon call. All around me the hickory trees were blazing yellow, the maples with their red and gold, only the pine trees, not lob-lollies, were still green. I suppose the word for today with its gentle temperatures of Autumn is “arid and pleasant”.
Sitting on the cemetery bench, just above Carlos Henderson’s grave site next to his wife, I had a warm feeling on one side where the sun-shined and a touch of chill on my shade-side. Down below me to the right and just up the grade a bit, them big ole Canadian geese were walking about, munching on the Fescue grass among flat laying cemetery markers.
Passing the time till the procession arrived from Cumming Georgia with my friend Scotty’s remains, I had a most tranquil time as a slide show of the moments and adventures I spent with my friend, the times I did spend with his cousins, his Aunt Polly and his Uncle Frank…. and the times I spent with his Mother and his Father. Not a fast paced rush of pictures or images, rather a moment here and a moment there. Wondering about in a museum with images of mixed media. There be no hurry.
Scotty and I shared a most common denominator when we first met. Simply we both drove the exact same vehicle. His father has inquired if I need a place to stay as I began my career with the USPS. A week or two of quick painting inside a small and sparse apartment above a cinder-block garage built in the 1930’s, I believe, along with a the call to a moving service, everything to be moved at once. I found myself behind a farmhouse in Alpharetta Georgia, one big gas heater in the front room, great kitchen, cold as hell bathroom in the winter and a amazingly neat basement with a garage. But it was to be some time till I met the man who was buried today, and a man who was my friend.
A few minutes ticked past, couple of squirrels chirped about, playing across rough barked limbs of the nearby pine-trees. I let my mind rest on a group of statues just to my left and down hill a bit. Coming up hill towards me three carved and mounted statues one in front a Roman solider leading Jesus of Nazareth, my Lord being middle of the group shouldering his cross, followed by another Roman solider the third life-size, prodding young Jesus up the incline. Above me on the hill, from where I was seated upon the bench is a memorial; toward this the Roman solders and Jesus are proceeding. Looking around and relaxing, it was then I noticed a groundskeeper had shut down his tractor. I don’t recall hearing him drive up my way, having moved from the shaded areas and into the sunlight, he step down from it and disappeared around the back and all was quiet.
Many, many decades ago my family paid for me then a students, way to Europe. The ‘senior college adventure’. Booked to Russia, only to discover someone in the group of collegent adventures could not get there visa approved for a truly Communist/Cold war country, this was in the 70’s. Never the less we embarked on the great tour around Eastern Europe. Of the 4 men, or fellow students I traveled with, may have been five, three of us shared the same name, Bill. Take a group of 20 something year old men, place them in Europe with limited funds and let the adventure begin. Of the tons of memories, of visiting and traveling in countries and towns, and venues I’d spent my entire life to that point reading about, studying about, living thru the pictures and words of others, duh studying of, I found myself there. Surrounded by the scenes, the sites and ghost of civilizations thousands of years older than the country me born and raise in. My strongest memories of those Western civilizations are the carvings, the statues, and the engravings in stone. From them, their creators and their subject one can reach out and feel. Whether smooth polished marbles, or the corner stone to a building of a 1000BC were pizza and wine were sold. Or a temple to the Vestal Virgins of Rome, a circular temple still grand in size and location, Rome may have changed, the Temple remains, as the connection to generations so much closer to Jesus, or Nero, or Mark Anthony was spell binding. Take from those experiences the physical connection to antiquity. Imagine sitting in the most originally acoustically perfect rotunda, designed and built, with the financing of the Medici family, surrounded with recline 5ton statues, all the handy-work of Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci. Why not daydream on such a day as today, sitting on my bench while waiting on Scotty’s procession, indeed, although so very solemn and sad, there was some happy times today.
Times being near the beginning of rush-hour traffic with each distant siren I looked around for the funeral procession to enter the grounds. Green-Lawn cemetery is fairly large and spacious and well forested providing a total separation from highways and roads. If one looks in the right direction the tallest buildings from Buckhead to in town Atlanta can been seen from my location. As in life when you least expect it, it happens. Appearing in the valley below the biggest red fire engine available appeared, giant truck with a ladder/platform on top, the words “Johns Creek” painted on its side. Appearing almost sad followed a older water-pumper, wide in girth and statue. Next came a family limo following and a black long bed pickup truck, then a procession of about 15-25 assorted vehicles. I quickly paced down the hill towards Scotty’s final resting tent, along the roadbed, down hill, smartly aside a mausoleum, quietly approaching the tents.
Surrounding his grave-site uniformed Firemen of various representations. A Fireman’s color guard removed the American flag from his casket, After it was unloaded from the rear of the pumper truck, the flag was in turn very quietly presented to his wife, seated. A group in uniform, Scottish bagpiper’s performed Amazing Grace, as beautiful as can me heard. Once done, the trumpeter with the color guard played “Taps”. Between the presentation, the American Flag to his widow, the bagpipes and playing of Taps a man in uniform addressed the family and assembled group. He and another uniformed man talked briefly of Scotty, his life with the Fulton County Fire Department, his love of the work he retired from, as well as the symbolism of certain protocols during the internment ceremony.
From my time sitting on the hill to the ceremony is short and it seemed shorter as well, how brief, oh how briefly. Now the time arrived to speak with the family. Me? I chose to carry the memories with me. I turned and walked away. Only a five-minute walk thru the grounds between the resting places of so many. Past another mausoleum and to my vehicle. My most final though was to linger. So I did. I say it was a most beautiful day and remained a while longer. There was a peace of mind and a peace of the soul. Amen.