Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lake Forest Cemetery

We're heading up to Grand Haven in August, and second on my list of to do's is to visit Lake Forest Cemetery, which lies adjacent to Duncan's Woods, and where across Lake Avenue, is another wood, bordering a great sand dune, the top of which offers a panoramic view of the flat, green Michigan expanse, split in two by the river Grand with its tiny fingers extending into bayous and ballooning out into Spring Lake.  I usually envision such a visit alone, and maybe my wife is standing in the background at the border of Duncan's and the cemetery, amid the milkweed and beach grass, where Monarch butterflies flit and twitter about, resting with that classic, open and shut revel of orange and black as they drink sweet nectar.  An indulgent summer air is there to drink in and exhale, leaving your head in a lush, as the waves in the far distance offer gentle roars and monotonous delight.

Duncan's Woods holds great mystery.  A good man and his wife gave this rolling parcel of tree-drenched hills to the city of Grand Haven many, many years ago, on the condition that it would never be developed, and always available for the people to enjoy.  There is a black road that cuts through the wood like a horseshoe-shaped ribbon, with a hill offering the apex of speeding adventures for boys on bikes racing with an alarming rush on their way to win the applause of imagined crowds.  And maybe that girl will be waiting at the end with her congratulatory smile, and keen eyes.  Or maybe there'll be a deep chasm at the end, full of snakes and monsters with glimmering teeth, over which he must jump in order to save, not the day, but himself.  That's Duncan's Woods, and it's got even more to offer.  But next to it is a place of solemn beauty and to this we now turn.

There are friends of mine buried there, and "gone too soon" is the apropos grimace we all share, though it is cliche.  The thing about cliches is, they're true.  Heather and Amy are there.  Heather's dad is there.  He was a good man.  My boyhood neighbor, Jack, is there.  He was a good man, too.  My friend's dad, Keith is there.  Keith died when his eldest son was only three.  I remember standing there when I was 13 or 14, watching my friend, not yet a man, and far beyond a boy, standing there on the precipice of adulthood, staring at his father's tombstone, and a deep chasm we call the abyss of cold death.  He stood with his head down, like a sentinel who's lost hope for the dawn.

When we were in our 20's, we would tremble through the Wood at midnight, (and I was fearful of evil men with knives), and drinking and smoking and thinking of the ancient natives who lived and hunted there, got married and had children.  We were so high and mighty: we weren't like the lemming slaves downtown on a Friday night, lapping up the poison of driving, droning noise, and spreading their peacock tails in order to impress would-be companions for a mere, short night.  Making up poems full of non-sequiturs and half-stoned observances of things we have never seen, felt or heard, we pretended to be Jim Morrison, the great Shaman.  We were so much better, O yes!  

There was a crystal cross on Heather's tombstone, but I never saw it.  It kept getting stolen.  It glowed pink-red at night.  How beautiful it must have been.  My friends said, yes, it was beautiful.  Who would steal something like that?  Her parents gave up on replacing it time and again.

My favorite tombstone there is of a young man who died on my birthday, May 6.  His name is Christopher, like me.  His mother and father had engraved the most compelling farewell: Our beloved Christopher, our happy thought.  Until the resurrection..."

Yes, until resurrection!  When the dogwoods are blossoming their glimmering white petals, filling the trees like a thousand stars on a green canvas, and when their neighbors peak in pink flowers, so that the whole tree is a pulsating rhythm of sweet scented Spring, then ah, the Eternal Spring will descend and raise us up and all creatures will sing and worship him, the author and giver of life, that is where I want to be, in Lake Forest Cemetery, next to Duncan's Woods. Until the resurrection.

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