As I headed to the mailbox this morning, the crisp air of January met me afresh. The snow covering the once-green grass barely crunched below my feet, and I found myself walking on top of it rather than sinking in
My mind wandered back some thirty years. Arlington cemetery. Bloomington, Indiana. Grandma and me.
I took her to put flowers on my grandfather’s grave. Solemnly we exited the car and moved toward the grave on a brisk winter morning. She and I walked atop a frosted-over snow, slowly making our way to the grave. Bare, iced branches of the few trees standing amidst the many marble markers glistened in the midmorning sunlight.
We quietly ambled on. Then Grandma, attempting a smile, looked at me said, “I’ve never walked on top of snow before.”
I gripped her elbow as we approached the grave that had for the several months held the body of my grandpa, her husband of more than sixty years.
Sacredly placing the flowers gently into the urn beside the marble monument, she stepped away, reading the dates carved in the cold stone. Her name etched beside his with only a birth date and a hyphen loomed over both of us, an omen of days to come.
“I guess I’ll be there beside him someday,” she said. Tears trickled down both our cheeks as we stood in silence, staring at the stone that foretold life’s brevity.
Regaining composure, I said, “Well, we won’t think about that now, Grandma.” Empty, useless words to an 81-year-old who had heard death’s knock amongst friends and family one too many times.
She might have stood there all day had it not been winter. My hand grasping her elbow, I urged her back to the car. “Come on, Grandma, it’s cold,” I said. “Let’s go home.”
Coldness comes and goes over time. Seasons change and life as we’ve known it no longer exists. We can never go back. People enter our lives for a season and then we must walk alone, seeking to understand life’s rhythm.
After lifting the little red flag on the mailbox, I turned back toward the house. The blacktop drive was bare and clean, providing a much safer path…but I preferred to move on top of the snow, step by step, pretending that Grandma was walking beside me once again as my hand gently urged her home.