the words of tim walker

graveside stories

i did something a little odd the other day.
i went to the cemetery and took pictures.

i don’t normally hang out in graveyards, but i had a reason for being there.
my aunt died. my dad is the youngest of 11, and this was the funeral of one of his older sisters. she was in her 80s.

i arrived for the graveside service a little early and decided to walk around. it was a cold, blustery day, but i was fueled by my curiosity.

cemeteries freak some people out. but in my life, they are just part of my story.
my mom is buried there.
aunts and uncles.

when i was 15, my grandmother used to take me the cemetery to let me practice driving.
a graveyard isn’t creepy to me.
but it is a place of loss—although not in the way that you might think.

you see, if i knew someone well, i don’t like to go to the cemetery to remember them.
a marble slab on the ground with my mother’s name etched on it is not how i remember her.
or my maternal grandparents.
or some other family members.

but since my dad is the youngest of 11, there are people buried there with whom i share a heritage, but also are complete mysteries to me.
i have a grandfather who died before i was born. we share a last name,and i’m part of his legacy, but i know just bits and pieces of his life.
i have a grandmother who died when i was one. apparently she loved me, but i have no recollection of her.
i have aunts and uncles who i would see once or twice a year, and my only memories of them are the information my listening ears would gather and store away as the adults around me talked.

and i used to be content with not knowing.
but as a generation disappears, i find myself longing for their stories.
i want to know more about the family that has disappeared, and the ones who are remaining.
so i’ve started asking questions.
i attend family reunions with an agenda—to learn something new about someone there.
i try to connect on social media.

my time is limited with the demands of my own world, but i’m curious.
because my story is made up of other stories.
stories that may be lost over time, unless i make an effort to simply ask some questions now and then while i can.


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