Pandemic or not, paying respects at the cemetery is an ongoing obligation, that for some gives comfort, but for others is daunting and demanding. In our household, we carry that internal sense of responsibility, typically trying to go each summer, and this year, minus the large gatherings of people, gravesites are still accessible.
My brother once asked why our dad was laid to rest in Long Island, considering he lived (and we grew up) in Flushing. I didn't have a perfect answer, knowing simply that the land and availability was due east of Queens. All these years, all these days, and little did I know the journey to Exit 35 on the Southern State Parkway constantly takes us on a journey of memories each time, each mile we drive.
On our latest trip, we stopped and searched and relied on some instinct to find our loved ones' final resting places.
Finding my grandmother is usually easy, because she is at rest near the front fences of the cemetery overlooking the traffic. I never liked the sentiment on her stone, but I chuckle about my aunt's decision and think of their mother/daughter relationship, every time I read it.
For my husband, his sense of direction and memory served him well, distinctly identifying the name of the road for finding his paternal grandparents quickly. They had seven children – all with distinct lives and careers.
And no matter where we went searching on that sunny morning we spotted wild bunnies, scampering among the grass, the trees and bushes.
Regardless of faith, I believe there is a universality of remembrance and peace that invades every space, with loving efforts to distinguish the people who were in our lives — regardless of location.
For some plots there are the remnants of candles and smooth stones. For others, strewn flowers, ceramic figurines and Yankee emblems. When I once worked at a home improvement retailer, the garden department always carried "Christmas in Heaven" grave blankets during December. I came to realize how it wasn't just the headstone that gave purpose and information, but all the little things left behind that worked to keep memories alive.
My mother has always said that it is a blessing to pay respects (in the words of prayer, "may their memory always be for a blessing") and that those who loved us watch over us. I don't always know what's true, but I do believe that no matter where they rest, as long as I remember, they live.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches marketing fundamentals as well as advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and SUNY Old Westbury.