It was the most unlikely of afternoons. To be sure the ground upon which I stood was not a place I would ever have taken myself, but when my mother declared on our drive, pointing at one of the oldest cemeteries in El Paso, that it was her dream to go there...I ignored the look on my own face, which said more or less...are you crazy...really? Mom...who does that? and instead took the next exit off the highway.
"Hey! Where are you going?!" my mother declared, sure that I was lost and exiting wrong.
"It's your dream to go there...well what were you going to do? Drive past it for 20 years? I'm taking you now..."
Her face lit up and a sense of wonder passed through me about this little scrapbooking 4'11" grandmother who loves pink and lace. Suddenly, I remembered...she also has a personality that inevitably surfaces and throws me off every time....I call it her murder, death, intrigue self, the one who worked for secret service, and it was this one now driving us to the cemetery.
The Franklin mountains surrounded us as we walked upon the desert floor, cactus blooming and ground squirrels running. It wasn't eerie...more..peaceful. Statues of angels, iron cribs, fence posts, unmarked graves....and though I should have felt a deep sadness...the day was curious...the speculations on the stories and the reading of names...the dates were 1860....1914...influenza sections and revolutionaries...lying now...side by side.
Some sections were Jewish, others Catholic, and still others Chinese. Separated by beliefs, united in eventuality. We talked then about my own grandparents...about their own passing and we realized simultaneously that we never visited their grave...that was not a visit of anonymity, but of longing and remembrance.
The thought occurred to me then, I was born in El Paso. I said it to myself many times allowing it to sink in. I was born on this land. My grandparents died here....all of my grandparents will...and they were born here....some within a two hour radius but going back 7 generations...at least. And I thought...doesn't that mean something? A powerful thought to one who travels often and far...that even still, staying here or not, this is my home...because there will always be someone in the family here who remembers me.
It seemed inevitable, then, that my mother and I take the drive to remembrance that we had avoided. For weeks, doing healing sessions in my grandfather's room, pictures of my grandparents life surrounding me, I had been thinking about the two of them.
For many years I used to reflect on my grandmother in the kitchen, my grandfather "making" her cross the room to pass him the salt that sat inches from his hands...what was a modern granddaughter, still single at 38, independent traveler to think about this? I did not usually reflect happily upon it but the image kept appearing over and over again.
Now here we were arriving at Mt. Carmel approaching the Virgen de Guadalupe and the site where my grandfather was recently placed side by side my grandmother.
I didn't expect to feel so much, but when I saw the stone and our last name written upon it: Uribarri...it hit me. This was not an unknown grave, with stories to speculate about...it was my grandparents'..and they were lying side by side.
The images that had been flashing for weeks suddenly became vivid and clear. I remembered everything. The smells, the smiles, the look in their eyes and the still peace of watching them in the kitchen.
My grandfather was a writer...he sat for hours at the kitchen table scribbling away...my grandmother was a nurturer. Walk into the house...be sure you would be asked a relentless series of how can I serve you questions...
"Qieres algo para comer, mija? (Something to eat?)"
"No, gracias, Grandmalita."
"Algo para tomar?"
"No, no. Nada."
And my grandmother would smile her beautiful smile that would light up her eyes and melt your heart. And I realized as I sat at the grave, emotions overflowing that she wanted to. That she wanted to nurture, she wanted to serve, she wanted to love, and suddenly I saw those moments in the kitchen for the loveliness that they were.
I think when I was younger I used to think you met someone, you feel in love and "something" happened...now...looking at the people I love who have made it work for 42 years or more...I see love the way I now saw it unfolding in the kitchen.
There was not more happening...there was less but the "something" was deeper...stiller...a bit quieter. Two people honing life down to the things they loved the most...food, writing, and each other. Married for 50 years, in a 20 foot space, each day doing exactly what they loved...3 feet apart...breathing time together...one dream, one simple moment together in time. How ever it was going to be...they were going to hold the memory of each other alive...and my grandfather did just that.
For the 20 years he lived beyond my grandmother's young 64 year old life, I watched him breath love into her pictures, remember her in his writings, and live the life they lived together over and over again. She kept him company and together, though they are gone, they came together to teach me through memory...less from the big things of their life...mostly in the little things...like passing the salt...what love actually is.
And as I held my mother, now parent-less, and feeling into her heart...I tell her its ok to cry...its ok to let go into our hearts and know by experience the depth of our love...because I know someday...I too will have to face the eventuality of my parents absence and someone will hold me through it until it is our turn.
I hear my mother say in her heart, "Te esperamos en la resurreccion."
I feel into the space of my own heart, the one that connects me to my relatives past and present, and I do know that we will one day live together again...we will and do remember each other alive...in some other place in time and be willing to lose again, because the having is so worth experiencing.
"Juntos, para siempre 1946.
Carmen and Roberto Uribarri."
And to my grandmother...I would so love a liquado and some lucky charms...yes, please.
Healer, Spiritual Advisor, Yogini, Mentor