Happy December. All things are new. Actually all the time all things are new. I have the best job in the world in that I get to encourage others, as best as I can, to enjoy physical, emotional and spiritual health. None of these realms are as easily defined as one might think. “Living is dangerous to your health, no matter how you do it”.
This month we went to Green Hills Cemetery to pay our respects to one of Danny’s friends who passed away.
“Passed away” is a bit gentler than saying he was shot in the face in a drive-by gang shooting in Wilmington. The boy was 19 years old and a Sophomore at Cal State Fullerton trying to educate himself out of the inner city life.
Danny told me what happened. He said the funeral was attended by too many people to feel personal. Danny also said he had a lot to say to the boy. Alex was his name. He was buried on Thursday.
They caught the boy who shot him. The shooter is 14 years old.
On Sat morning Danny and I went to Green Hills Cemetery in Palos Verdes. We got there at 8:00 AM. The office was not open yet. We did not know the location of Alex’s grave. Green Hills is 120 acres of grass and paved roads. I gave Danny the car keys.
“This is a great place to learn to drive. No one alive is here right now.”
So we drove around awhile. At 8:30 the office opened and they graciously looked up Alex’s resting place. He is in the Emerald Hills section. We drove up, parked, grabbed our blankets, writing notebooks, two candles and two pens. We found Alex. The grave was still unmarked save for the identifying number and some flowers. We sat down. It’s 8:45 AM, the sun is rising in the east. Alex is on the top of a small hill. The cemetery is beautifully landscaped, green, flowing with views of L A Harbor and the city. There is an eerie silence. The cemetery is right next to a residential neighborhood. I know of some local problems the residents have had with mourners being too rowdy and noisy for the neighborhood. This is not a problem today at 8:45 AM. All the green grass and foliage actually smell good and outdoorsy. There are varying sizes and shapes of headstones and grave markers with all the important start and stop dates on them. “Too many of them are younger than me”, I think. The grave is fresh with the outline of the hole dug in the shape of a coffin.
I light the two candles and set them by the identifying number. Danny and I both start writing. “Dear Alex”, he says.
I write to my parents. My parents are long gone. To my surprise all I can write is gratitude, respect and appreciation for my parents. All I could muster up to say to them is “Thank You” as eloquently and extended as possible.
We finish about the same time. We read what we wrote to each other. I am so impressed with what Danny wrote I want to keep it and publish it or something. Danny says “No”.
We carefully burn both letters.
Then Danny says, “I want to get him a beer”.
So I say “Okay, let’s go”
We hop in the car and go get a can of beer.
We get back up to the grave site. With a tears in his eyes and a prayer on his lips Danny opens the beer and carefully pours it on the grass. He then leaves the empty can with the flowers.
Then he says,”Can I have some alone time”
I say ‘Sure” and go back to the car.
After a time he rejoins me and I slowly begin to drive home.
He says, “That sure feels good. Do you think he heard us or knows we were there?”
I say, “ There is not one person on the whole planet that can answer that for sure. That’s why we have words like faith and belief. I prefer to believe that he heard every word and, yes, it feels good.”
All things are new, always even with endings and beginnings.
Next blog I will report our extraordinary visit to a local Native American Sweat Lodge. This was led by an old, long grey haired Cheyenne who has been leading these for 30 years. The encampment is in Rancho Santa Margarita in the hills. I can’t wait to tell you about it.
Dr. Jim Dohn Hellerwork, DC