A Grave Mistake
By Andrea Freedman
Recently, on the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, I decided to accompany my parents for a visit to the cemetery where my grandmother is buried. As I had not been for a while, I had forgotten how many other people my family and I knew who were also buried in the same cemetery.
We took the opportunity not only to visit my grandmother’s grave, but also to stop by the graves of all the other relatives and family friends that were there as well.
Perhaps I was a bit nervous, or maybe it was to cover up my sadness because it was my first official visit to my grandmother there, but I found that once we got started (and as it seemed we had the entire cemetery to ourselves that day) I could not help making a few jokes in the hopes of making my parents laugh and adding some levity to the situation.
Everything went along fine until we stopped at the monuments of one particular couple that had been part of my life when I was growing up. I began reminiscing about the husband of the pair, a man who I had always loved and admired. Unfortunately, I could not say the same for his wife, a woman who had said some downright nasty things that had deeply hurt me as a young girl, some of which was actually damaging to my self-esteem at the time. I mentioned this to my parents and added that I did not recall this lady smiling much, and had for many years thought of her as a sour puss.
In the past, I remembered having to put on a fake smile and pretend to agree through clenched teeth when other relatives would sing this woman’s praises.
Besides the mean things I had heard the woman say about me and what she said to my face, I remembered as if it were yesterday when she spoke unkind words about my sweet grandfather only hours after he had passed away, all within earshot of me and my younger sister, both still impressionable kids who were devastated over the loss of our grandfather. I realized later that I had done the very thing for which I disliked her in the first place and that I should not have stooped to her level.
A couple of weeks after the cemetery visit, out of the blue the woman appeared in my dream one night, and this time – shockingly enough – with a smile on her face! As someone who is very spiritual, for a moment I considered the meaning of this dream, and wondered if it was possible that her soul was trying to make amends for how badly she had made me feel when she was alive. I even entertained the possibility that she didn’t know any better or was unaware of the full impact of her hurtful words.
I pondered whether it was my feelings of guilt for speaking ill of the dead that had made her appear in my dream. As cruel as I thought this woman had been, I later reflected that I should nonetheless probably not have bad-mouthed someone at her own grave.
When someone dies it does not automatically make them a saint, but I guess there were people close to the person in question that she was indeed wonderful to; I just did not happen to be one of them.
The next time I visit a cemetery, I will be sure to keep my comments to myself. I will also make a conscious effort not to say things that might hurt others’ feelings while I am alive, because once tactless, insensitive words are spoken, sometimes they really are carved in stone!♠
Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2016