People with flowers are always going somewhere
To a church, to a wedding, to a graveyard.
Home, to try to make their empty lives as full as blossoms.
I’m like people with flowers because they are trying
Because they haven’t given up…
—Rod McCuen, 1933-2015
Pictures of mourners are popular on Etsy and eBay. Collectors of vernacular photography can buy photographs of dead people in caskets and grieving humans mourning their loss. That’s where I found these pictures of a woman and man at the decorated grave of a child.
In the first two pictures, the freshly dug burial plot is outlined with baby blue flowers and on top of it is a pink cross, also fashioned from flowers.
These are pictures no parent wants to take with their infant or toddler daughter, and yet, these parents did. They documented their grief and placed it in an unfinished album, their sorrow forever glued to self-adhesive pages. They went from decorating a nursery to decorating a grave. A mother’s final act of love.
The pictures were taken in the early 1970s when photographs were square with beige borders. I’ve been holding on to them, waiting to share them since October 2015. I have looked at them many times, studied them, and tried to make out the inscription on the tomb. Only last night when I decided to share them for Memorial Day, did I realize that in the third picture below, the flowers have been rearranged.
It’s as if after putting their daughter in the cold ground one or both of them went back the next day to rearrange the chain of flowers in a pink-blue-pink-blue pattern. When I saw this I had to catch my breath. It reminded me of my friend who lost her son about 15 years ago. It snowed on the day they buried him and the thought of him being so cold compounded her grief. So, the next day she returned to the cemetery and covered up his grave with a blanket. A mother never commits a final act of love because her love never ends.
The river stones are listening
because we have something to say.
The trees lean closer today.
The singing in the electrical woods
has gone dumb. It looks like rain
because it is too warm to snow.
Guardian angels, wherever you’re hiding,
we know you can’t be everywhere at once.
Have you corralled all the pretty wild
horses? The memory of ants asleep
in daylilies, roses, holly, & larkspur.
The magpies gaze at us, still
waiting. River stones are listening.
But all we can say now is,
Mercy, please, rock me.