November is the month where we remember those who’ve left us. Anyone who’s lost someone dear to them never forgets and no date is needed to remember, but in November each memory is somewhat more alive and vivid.
Local cemeteries come alive in November. Every family remembers their departed by placing brightly-coloured flower arrangements in place over their tombs, photo frames are set up with personally-written notes from loved ones and the normal sombre air surrounding the cemetary is somehow transformed into a feast of love and thankfulness.
I do not mind cemetaries. Perhaps it is strange to some people, but I find a certain calmness when visiting. There is always a quiet and still mood to a cemetary and for me it’s a hundred times more private and tranquil than the atmosphere one finds in a church. I find it soothing visiting the tombs of my lost ones, I find myself talking to them without knowing and more often than not I leave smiling. Relieved and happy.
When my father passed away I visited every day. I would long to leave home and head to the cemetary and I would spend hours there. I would cry and get angry and ask useless questions and then I would head home feeling rested. And when the next day would dawn, I would find myself wanting to go back, again and again, repeating this same visit for months at end.
Nowadays I don’t visit everyday, but since we moved back to Malta I can visit much more frequently than before. I go by myself and I wander through the rows of lost ones. It is always sad when I see new and known faces smiling back at me from newly-opened tombs. I have a small mental list of tombs I visit – my father’s, my grand-parents, a childhood friend who died when we were 18, an elderly gentleman who was my client and who had the most wicked sense of humour I’ve ever known, the angelic son of a friend of mine who passed away this year, an elderly lady who lived near my office and always waved at me whenever I passed by, old neighbours and friends’ parents. And in their photos, they are all smiling. They all look onto us with a serene face, an open expression of warmth and love.
I know better than to believe that placing a flower on a tomb will make any difference. But I do believe that the power of one prayer is as strong as a small miracle. And I know that a short visit is a sign of respect, to the deceased and his loved ones.
Cemetaries are a place of sad serenity. It can never be a happy place and that marble slab is both a figurative and a real separation between those who have left us and us still here.
But I don’t mind them. I try and visit whenever I can, sometimes because I feel I need to quite urgently. Whatever the reason I always exit the place feeling better than when I went in.
So visit your loved ones, say a small prayer for them. They may be gone but they don’t need to be forgotten.