I accidentally came across a story about an elderly man who began visiting his wife's grave on a weekly basis. It was in the Milwaukee Sentinel which I was reading online after learning that the Milwaukee Brewers, MLB parent team to the Shuckers, are coming to town to play the Shuckers a spring-training game next April.
The man's wife died four years ago with pancreatic cancer. They had been married for 55 years, having met in the 50s at a dance. Initially, he visited her gravesite daily then after about two weeks he began weekly visits on Sunday's after church services. Every Sunday he visits without fail, tailgating at the gravesite. He neatens up the site, pours water on the dusty headstone, and sits in a lawn chair with a lunch he'd picked up at a fast food restaurant. And he talks to her. He shares with his deceased wife what he's done that week and how their friends and neighbors were doing. He asks her how things are going up in heaven.
At first it was just he alone who would visit. Then soon one of his grown daughters joined him and the two of them have now become something of a fixture in the cemetery, religiously arriving on each Sunday. If it rains, snows, or is too cold they will sit in the car parked by the gravesite and visit.
To some, this might sound like a man who's off his rocker a little, or who might be experiencing an abnormal grief reaction. Unlike many cemetery visitors who visit for a few minutes or so and leave, to return in a few weeks perhaps. But this is a fellow who is tailgating his wife's gravesite on a weekly basis, every week, and has done so every week for four years!
But he appears to be normal in all respects, maintaining his insight, and, on reading between the lines as well as his sharing with the news reporter, he lacks despondency, and the physical and emotional distress that characterizes someone who is dysfunctional from grief. There's no apparent anguish or sense of hopelessness as far as one can tell from the article. He just simply enjoys visiting and being close to her. His name is Tom.
Over the years I've visited my parents' gravesite, probably not as often as I should have. But the older I get the greater meaning the visits seem to take on. We change flowers, spruce up a bit and say a prayer.
At one visit I was aghast to see a large fire-ant bed built right in front and on side of my Dad's headstone. I was irked. The next day I came back with fire-ant poison and on the way to the cemetery I remember wondering if it might soak down into the ground far enough to do anything even though they're both in underground vaults. Strange thought, I know, but I dismissed it and so proceeded in the interest of cemetery decorum to exercise genocide on the detestable insects. I imagined Dad saying something like, "Boy, it's about time!"
Sometimes though we cut the grass, weed eat a little, and so forth. And for me and my wife it counts for something. Maybe the need to satisfy the spiritual side of life. I feel better when I do it. And we also pray -- for them. I realize many believers do not believe in such, but then again, there are very many who do. I know of a tailgater in Milwaukee most likely does, making his weekly visits after attending Sunday Mass. It almost seems natural to feel that we can make a difference either for ourselves, or for those who've passed, in praying for the deceased.
And each year during this time when we think a little more of those who've passed, together we with family, like many others, recall certain events in the lives of our parents and laugh at stories. Sometimes wishing if they could only come back and visit for one day, to catch up, and to see how everything has changed. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Then again, if they just knew how much things really have changed, they might just rather roll over in their grave, preferring to remember life and times as they used to be -- preferring the joy that we're all promised that comes with being on the other side, having journeyed His Way.