Pussy willow flowers

Earlier today, I took a lunchtime walk at Edgell Grove Cemetery in Framingham. I technically didn’t have time to go walking between my classes at Framingham State, as it’s the time of the semester when my paper-piles loom. But if there’s any lesson I took from yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombing, it’s that life is short, so you have to walk while the walking is good.

Poison ivy on tree trunk

There’s something oddly comforting about taking a lunch hour walk at a woodsy cemetery, especially when you’ve been watching too much news coverage and have a heavy heart. When you walk at a cemetery, you’re alone with your thoughts, moving at the speed of your own footsteps, with nothing to do, really, other than gaze at the tombstones of strangers. Photography is prohibited a Edgell Grove, so I kept my camera in my purse. Freed from the desire to visually document my visit, all I was left with was the silence of my own solitary company.

Yesterday was Patriots’ Day, so the veterans’ graves at Edgell Grove were decorated with flags: so many flags. On one hillside, nearly every headstone bore a flag, as if the families in that quiet corner had promised to dedicate at least one child to military service, as Catholic families used to vow to dedicate one child to the church.

Protruding

Although many of the stones at Edgell Grove Cemetery are old and worn, their flags commemorating wars I’ve only read about in history books, there were two more recent graves that caught my eye, both marking the graves of people who died young. The first was a stone with a photo inset that showed a cherubic toddler smiling for his portrait: the grave of a two-year-old. The second was a flag-decorated stone in the shape of two hands holding a heart: the grave of a 22-year-old Marine.

I don’t understand a world where young children and twenty-somethings are taken before their time, and I don’t understand a world where cruel-hearted people detonate pressure-cookers filled with ball bearings. But I understand the quiet calm that comes when you commemorate the dead who went before you, whether those dearly departed were your loved ones or the loved ones of strangers. I don’t understand the ways of sometimes cold, cruel world, but I understand the feel of the bare earth underfoot on a mild spring day, and I hope that a quiet walk in a sunny cemetery counts as a kind of commemoration, each footstep a word of unspoken prayer.