I set a number of mosquito traps in cemeteries. As odd as this sounds, it's actually pretty sensible. Every community has one, and they are usually placed on the outskirts of towns, land that is not desirable for a living area, in a wetland, or a flood plain, etc. They are also places where you can set a trap up and be reasonably sure that it is not going to be tampered with. I love cemeteries, walking through them, reading tombstones, wondering about the stories of the people that lie beneath them. I sometimes eat my lunch at these quiet places, daydreaming, imagining a life for this person or that. I'm a terrible daydreamer sometimes.
Yesterday, before the storm, when I was hearing the thunder, and relishing the wind, and smelling the storm, I approached an old cemetery. And lo, an elderly man was mowing. I waved in a cheerful way, and went about my business. I heard the mower approaching and I stood as the man cut the engine. "What are you doing, if you don't mind my asking?" Heck no. I'm a talker, so I began to tell him that I was setting a mosquito trap. Before I could get any further than that, his eyes were twinkling and he said, "I thought you were her! I read your articles all the time. You are a pretty funny woman." He went on to tell me that he knew all my husband's family. Not surprising. The preacher's family is kind of high profile. Especially when the preacher had 6 kids, some of whom were quite the hellraisers. So we talked, in a friendly fashion like two old friends, even though we had met only that very moment.
He talked of his own family, and he tells me that his wife died earlier in the spring, after 58 years of marriage. He talked about how they had known each other even longer than that, because they'd promised to marry when they were still in school. He talked very matter of factly, but you could tell this was a grieving man. I leaned against my truck and said, "Oh, that must leave an awful big hole in your life, to have someone in it for that long, and suddenly they are gone." The thunder rumbled, and he looked at me with tears in his eyes. "You know, most people can't understand that, they just don't understand how lonely a person can be." I did. And because I'm a sap of the very worst kind, I got sympathetic tears for him.
Before it was done, he had my address, and an invite to dinner. I drove off, to the west, directly into the oncoming storm, and I thought about it. You know, I think the truest measure of the value of a person's life may be size of the hole that (s)he leaves behind when they are gone from this world. Valjean left a gaping hole in one man's life. Though his children, and his grandchildren try to fill the empty spaces, he is still lonely. How sad for him, but I don't imagine that he would have given up the joys of his life to avoid the pain of her passing.
I drive along, wondering about the hole that I am digging.
The heavens open,
and it begins to rain.