A Good Spot
The sky was one of those crystal clear, blue-sky days on a warm, fall day in Nashville. I was with my cousin who had grown up here and still lived here. We were touring the city while he was showing me family homes and history. My roots went back many generations here. We were now at a cemetery. The sun was shining brilliantly that day, exposing sunlight like diamonds on grass. As I pressed my hands down onto the earth, they felt so warm, like when I used to dig my hands in the sand at the beach and would feel the warmth of the sun in the sand. I positioned myself on all fours above the graves of my biological maternal grandparents, and my aunt and uncle. The grass was uncomfortable, and I thought to myself, why was it that all cemeteries have the same type of crabgrass? Carefully, I placed my hands on top of the metal marker of my grandfather. I moved my hands slowly over his etched name and said his name out loud. My cousin stood nearby watching me. I wondered if he thought I was foolish, but I didn’t care at that point. Closing my eyes, I let the warmth radiate through the metal to both of my hands. This would be as close to him as I could ever be on this earth. It felt holy to me. I stood my ground on all fours, in silence, taking in this moment of time, trying to feel and visualize as I remembered him in photos my birth mother had given me.
My cousin had a phone call and took it, walking away from me to kindly give me, and himself, privacy. I had just met him the night before and here I was, like some crazed woman on all fours atop graves. That was okay, he didn’t know my journey. As he walked toward the cluster of large oaks, I slowly crawled my way over to my aunt’s grave that lay beside my grandfather. Just seeing her engraved name staring back at me tugged at my emotions. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of my cousin, Tracy, who was my aunt’s youngest child of nine children. No longer a child, but a woman in her mid-forties and a mother herself, Tracy had passed away just ten months earlier. I was heartbroken by her death. It was always Tracy’s hope to come to Nashville to see her mother’s grave. Like me, Tracy was adopted and never knew her biological mother. In some sense, I had come for Tracy too. This was a pilgrimage we both had wanted to take along with one of my sisters several years earlier, but it never materialized into anything but a dream. Through another cousin of ours, I had connected with my Nashville cousin and his family, and they invited me to come for a visit. No more delays, it was time. I hoped, in spirit somehow, Tracy was with me on this journey. Placing both of my hands on my aunt’s grave, I felt a tear fall on my cheek. I recognized the grief; the sadness pierced my heart knowing Tracy would never be here. It might’ve been healing for her in some way to have been here, but it was too late. All I knew was that I missed her terribly in this moment as I kneeled across where her mother lay.
Placing my hands on each family member’s name plate, I said their name out loud, as if that would make the moment last longer and somehow connect with them, somewhere, somehow past time and space. I found it curious how comfortable I was being there. With the exception of the strong emotions I had about Tracy, I felt very at ease. Once I finished the laying of hands on my relative’s graves, I sat for a few minutes and stretched my legs on that damn itchy, cemetery grass. Looking around at the beautiful resting place, the old trees waved silently in the breeze, and shaded well cared for graves. You could see the skyline of downtown Nashville from here. This was a good spot my grandfather had chosen for his family. My birth mother would be buried here one day too, lying next to her sister.
I think more than anything, and it’s kind of ironic, but seeing their graves made them come alive to me. It helped make them seem like they were really real people at one time. That may sound weird to some, and I get that. I think that’s one thing I experience as a closed-adoption adoptee, is that sometimes I don’t feel real, or that my ancestors were real people. In my own defense, other adoptees feel this way too. Our lack of history and knowing family doesn’t help ground us.
I felt so thankful to be there with my cousin, to have had this opportunity to see the graves of my grandparents, and my aunt and my uncle and where my mother will one day be. As my cousin and I drove away, in my mind I knew I had finally come to the end of my searching. I had come home. I was now done. I had accomplished what I needed to do. This part of my long journey was over. I had climbed the hill and saw that it was good. It was so very, very good.