As I wandered home and returned to my backyard, my next door neighbor called over the fence, "How are you?" "Better now," I responded. I told her I was doing final edits on the story of my daughter falling from the magnolia tree - this story is one familiar to our closest neighbors. No explanation was needed. "I can talk sometime if you need to" she shot back over the fence. "Thank you, but some things need to be done alone." We nodded our heads and hearts. As mom, we each knew what this meant.
I decided that I wanted to retrace my steps and take photos along the way. I grabbed my camera. I noticed that my body was at ease and had let go of the restlessness and tension of the earlier morning.
This time, I entered the cemetery through the main gate - the place where are all are welcome to enter. As I meandered along the quiet roadway, I came upon an interesting pair. At first, I wondered if it was a mother and daughter, but as I felt compelled to photograph this duo, I asked the grownup's permission. I quickly realized that she and I did not speak the same language. Maybe she was an au pair far from her home. With sign language and pantomime, I received her permission to photograph them from behind.
The young girl was curious about the lady who was standing behind her - the crunchy leaves, the lady slipping down the creek bank as she tried to get a firm footing. She kept looking back to see what was happening. Her caretaker understood that I did not desire to photograph her face, but just the back of this picture that speaks a thousand words. The caretaker was able to distract her and set up this picture that speaks many words to my heart.
I love this photo. In many ways, it is the opposite of the story of my journey with my daughters. I went to a faraway country and brought them into my culture. This woman has traveled far from her home in order to care for this blond hair and blue eyed pigtailed little soul. Each and every human being is capable of nurturing and giving to the children in our lives.
I sauntered back past Jesse Helm's resting place and wished him well once again. I noticed large groves of magnolias up ahead and decided I wanted to photograph them. But at this point, my often finicky camera decided to quit working. It had nothing else to give on that day. So I turned back toward my home once again.
As I walked back, I was fully present in each moment. I noticed the elderly veteran wearing a special hat standing by one particular grave. I saw a man kneeling down as he weeded a small bed of pansies. I caught his eye and exchanged a smile. As I approached my front door, I engaged in conversation with the hired man two houses down working hard to cut the grass. We had an eye to eye, heart to heart, human to human conversation. Most days I am more likely to look down and keep walking as I pass by my fellow travelers. A head up, heart open posture offers a deeper and richer journey.
After I returned home with a broken camera in hand, I still wanted to replicate my early morning walk and head back to the Edwards' plot. I worked hard to borrow a friend's camera, but this took more time and energy than I expected. I tried desperately to make a return pilgrimage happen on the afternoon of March 21 and even into the next day. Children's appointments, household responsibilities, and the everyday stuff of mom life kept getting in the way of my return to the previous day's pathway. So I gave up on trying to re-create something beautiful. It was a gift for that specific day. Some journeys can only be made once.
Adopting Grace: A Parenting Journey from Fear to Freedom available on September 12.