In the milky glow of a lamp post, the graves slumber quietly. The flurries started up only a few minutes ago, driving the last of the visitors from the South Cemetery, and now the gravestones flaunt white bonnets. The scene is curiously tranquil.
I hold out, motionless. In the company of an old woman standing a few meters away at another grave.
Stooped, as if turned to stone.
The grave at her feet looks fresh, like the one I am standing over, frozen solid. The burial of one’s own mother is something for which life never prepares you. The pain tears open a wound that never stops bleeding, creates a void that nothing can ever fill.
The other mourner stands stock still in the swirling snow. Whom might she have lost? Her husband? A relative? Or has she reached that age when you simply attend every burial until you are next in line?
I flip up my coat collar, say goodbye in silence, and make my way through the flurries. The first snow of this November. The woman also sways unsteadily toward the gate. She looks so brittle.
Does mourning grow simpler with the passing years? Is it easier, once the pain has already taken root? Probably not. Mourning is not an empirical value. You may know that it will fade at some point in the future, but does that make it any easier?
Over the past few minutes, a crust of snow has collected on the paths. My feet slide a few inches, but I catch myself from falling. “Wait, I’ll give you a hand!” I call to the old woman, hurrying to catch up with her.
Too late. She slips and lies helplessly on the ground.
She groans as I help her to her feet. “My foot!” she moans. I take her arm, and she hobbles toward the exit at my side.
“You need to get to the hospital!”
“No, please just take me home.” She watches me with faded eyes, wrinkles crisscrossing her face like the furrows of life. Through her coat, I can feel how gaunt she is. She cannot possibly weigh more than a child.
“How far is it from here?”
“Just two streets over.”
Together we negotiate the paths and forge our way through the flurries, which deposit a fringe of white fluff on our coats. Two mourners clinging to each other despite being strangers. “Whom have you lost?” I whisper.