Today is the sixth anniversary of my mothers death.
For years I have wanted to go visit her grave. There have been a number of factors that have prevented this from happening. First, her grave is in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, which is a good distance away from where I am — a couple hundred miles. I’ve tried planning going there on train and on bus in the past, but things have not really every worked out.
I have no classes on Mondays this semester, so at the beginning of March, when I realized that the anniversary of my mothers death was on a Monday, I decided to drive down there.
Today at about 11:15, I got in my car with a bottle of water, a bunch of snacks, my iPod, and a camera. And I made the pilgrimage. While it may have been about the length of some pilgrims trip to Canterbury, it was not nearly as epic. By myself in the car, I had a lot of time to think and reflect. To remember, and to listen to music. I was enveloped by the beauty of Gods creation. The rolling hills, and the tall trees. The mixture of what God has created and what man has created. Roads that stretch on for miles.
From my Beautiful California University through the East Bay, the weather is iffy. Sun, wind, rain pouring down. My windshield wipers are on and so are my sunglasses. It is a tough juxtaposition. It is too bright without the sunglasses. Too dark with them. My radio adaptor for my iPod starts putzing out. I listen to the radio, then try again. It fails. I drive in silence for awhile before trying again. It works.
I get past the East Bay and the sun was shining. I set my cruise control at just over 70 on the 5. Even at that speed, cars pass me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a truck that says “Seat belt Manufacturer” or something to that effect zoom by. Before I know it the truck is out of sight. Another car passes me. It has a wheelchair strapped to the back. I pass truck after truck. Cars pass me. The grass is green. The hills roll. The sun shines.
As I get closer and closer, the tension rises. I do not know what to expect, or how to feel. I am excited. Scared. I am. I am a raging sea of emotions and completely calm, all at the same time. My GPS tells me to take an off-ramp, and make a turn.
I follow its directions, and end up on a quiet country road. No one and nothing is around. Thus, quiet country road. I slow down to 20 or 30 miles an hour, lean back and blissfully take in the serene environment.
I get to the point where my GPS tells me the address of the Cemetery should be. Nothing is there but a bike path. I keep following the road. It ends. And then the cemetery begins. I park my car and meander around. There is a nice pond thingy. It is very regal. Very calm. Some fresh un-grassed graves are being prepared. I follow the numbers to the section my print-out says my mom is in. I follow the numbers on the gravestones, looking for the one that should be in the top right hand corner of my moms. I find the number.
It is not my mothers stone. I panic. I stand there, uncertain. This piece of paper has gotten me nowhere. There are hundreds – thousands of gravestones out there. Any one of them could be hers. I try to text a friend, but have no service. I walk along the aisle, looking at the names. Then I notice that the dates are all similar. and I notice the pattern. The ones closer to the front are more recent. Maybe the number is wrong. So I walk up to the back. Then I notice that the numbers start again, but with another number and a dash. I have hope again. I find the right aisle. And I continue down it, glancing at the names. My eyes run along.
Then I see her name. I stop. I fall to my knees. It is like a classic movie scene. I put the paper on the ground and my phone on top of it. I sit there, with my legs crossed. I stare at her stone. It has her name permanently etched in marble. I think about it. I look around me at how beautiful it is.
On the drive back, I listen to music. At first I listen to slow music. A tear or four escapes from my eyes. I keep driving.