I passed a cemetery on the way home tonight. It’s where Jimmy Hendrix is buried and only a few blocks from my house. It was twilight, and in the fading light, the trees that lined the perimeter of Greenwood Memorial Cemetery mesmerized me. They were firs, those tall and stately trees that give Seattle the nickname, The Emerald City. But just before dark, they looked black, like shadowy sentinels, guarding the graves whose headstones were barely visible in the lawn behind.
Jimmy was somewhere over there, resting under a marble dome supported by columns. I bet he would be appalled by the pomp. There is a rectangular slab of marble under that dome that bears his name, a place where those who remember him and make the trek to Renton, Washington, leave guitar picks, and carnations, and sometimes an empty beer bottle.
And I thought of Jimmy, and the fact that he was dead, and that today was the last day of the year. And I looked at the trees and thought of all of the dead in Greenwood Cemetery, and then of my friend whose father lay dying at this very moment, somewhere on the east coast. I remembered my own mother’s death, being with her as she died, and begging her to let go and stop breathing. It was difficult for her to give up and say goodbye.
I watched the trees as they passed by my car window. It was at that moment that I wondered if they were the living spirits of the dead. Perhaps when the soul is tired of living underground, it travels through the soil to the roots of the trees, where it rises up the trunk and up further to the branches and out to the leaves where it lives again. It’s a nice thought.
We spend too much money encasing the dead in coffins like mini Egyptian mausoleums, to preserve our bones and decaying flesh from the dirt and the worms, when all our souls crave is to be set free, maybe to find some tree roots and to live again. No one knows. But there is one thing for certain, all of us will find out on day.
I will go with the theory that one day, when the space creatures come to earth, and I am speaking of that imaginary day light years from now, and they open our coffins to peer inside in hopes to evaluate what our culture on earth was like, similar to the archeologists opening those Mayan, or Mycenaean tombs, they will ponder the silliest things. Were the remnants of fabric clinging to the bones, silk or wool? What was the significance of the plastic remains of breast implants, or why would a human have a titanium knee joint? And what about the jewelry? Why was a diamond or ruby rock prized and buried with the dead? They will put the jewelry, and anything else they can salvage, into space creature museums for alien lovers of interstellar history to stare at and wonder about the people of earth.
And for those who believe that there is no more to life than what they accumulated and horded and saved, then this is my guess of where all that stuff will go- to some special galactic exhibition of the Treasures of Earth.
And for those who believe that their soul will not die, that if released from the confines of their coffin, it will travel to the trees and stand guard in the night as a reminder of what will come to everyone, they will understand what I feel, that it is not at all an ending, but a beginning of something new. Life in another form- maybe not a tree, maybe not on this earth, but life renewed like the dawn of a new year, the transition of tonight, into tomorrow. Tomorrow is nearly here. Isn’t that why we celebrate?