This may be why humans are inextricably drawn to still cemeteries in thoughtful hours and times of immense sorrow. But sometimes, a path leads you there just to get a clear state of mind.
At least, that’s how I felt about it then.
I can’t say exactly when it happened, because years ago in those days it was nothing unusual for my feet to lead me to a graveyard in the middle of the night to find inner peace. It was an isolated graveyard and bordering a nearby forest. But I remember well that this incident took place 1995. It was a very cold night, and fog covered the entire land around me. On this night, I took a slow walk to the local graveyard, following the stars and the full moon in the cloudless night. The moon shed light in front of me while I walked up the steep hill to the graveyard entrance gate. I saw hundreds of graves, and countless candles, illuminated in memory of deceased loved ones.
All these burning candles in the graveyard looked like an ocean of fire on this cold night. Some of these graves were decorated with well designed statues, but one statue in particular caught my eye: The Virgin Mary, standing on a stone podium, lovingly cuddling a child in her arms. Admiring her son like only a mother can. This helpless child in her arms would be called the savior in his later life: an innocent child with curious eyes looking enthusiastically into his already predetermined future.
And while I looked and thought about this beautiful old statue, which was heavily overgrown with ivy over the years, I couldn’t help but notice many other graves of people who were honored in their death with nothing but a simple stone. Some of them, with just a simple name carved into a roughly carved chunk of rock. In such a deeply thoughtful night, one as mine surely was, it filled me with deep sadness to realize that some of these unfortunate souls had to leave this world prematurely. Sadness overcame me, sadness over those dead people that I have never even known.
Alone, in the middle of the night, I spotted an old, deteriorated wooden bench. It looked like it had been there forever. I sat down on it and looked around, thoughtfully contemplating all the silent graves in this bluish dark moonlight. I stared at the majestic oak trees with their imposing size, sentries in the night, guarding the secrets of the dead.
I also thought about all the things these hundreds of year old trees could tell us. And would they share their infinite wisdom with us, even if they could talk. Strange thoughts ran through my mind in this cloudless night with millions of stars watching me.
Everything looked mysterious and magical- but in a surprisingly welcoming way. I was reminded of a psalm which I heard often when I was child:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
For a long time I sat on the bench in the middle of the cemetery: still, peaceful, completely alone. And the more I sat there the sharper also developed my senses. My eyes started to notice more details in the graveyard, and even my senses of smelling and tasting seemed to have reached their peak. The smell is hard to describe, it was the smell of old earth mixed with the intense fragrance that surely came from a nearby oak tree.
Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw a young woman, kneeling down in front of a simple, roughly hewn gravestone. My eyes opened wider. I stirred. The palms of my hands began to sweat. There she was, hands folded in prayer, staring at the ground, her long dark hair covering her face. But, although she was only a few feet away, she seemed oblivious to my presence.
She was a dark and mysterious figure surrounded by the shadows that sprang from the dark blue moonlight. I was overwhelmed by how surreal it was. I stared at this young women in old-fashioned clothing. It slowly dawned on me that it must be a spiritual apparition. I refuse to use the word ghost, because there was nothing scary about her at all. On the contrary, I felt a deep sense of sadness and hopelessness when I saw her there kneeling on the ground not far from me.
I didn’t feel any fear, so I decided to approach this female manifestation of sadness to learn about her story. I have never been in such a situation before, so I was very hesitant at first, to say the least.
When I took a step closer to the apparition, I realized that I couldn’t speak anymore. Nor could I take another step further. Inexplicably, I was frozen in time. There is no other way to explain it.
After what seemed an eternity, I regained a piece of my consciousness. I put all my courage together, and finally asked her what her Name was. But my voice was just a whisper, hardly recognizable to me.
At first I didn’t get any reaction. The grieving apparition also appeared to be frozen in time. I summoned up all my courage and said in a stronger tone that I was determined to help her, regardless of the severity of her problem.
There was a long silence after that. My hands and entire body grew colder. The wind whistled through the trees. But suddenly she slowly turned her head. With soulful eyes, she found my frozen gaze. My heart started beating faster. She smiled at me. I looked right into her eyes. Then I was swept away, and it was not by the bitterly cold wind. I had never in my life seen such a beautiful young women, as she was kneeling there in her white dress, in a blanket of moonlit bluish white snow.
The wind whipped and whistled. Blowing snow flew all around us. Candles blackened. darkness grew darker. I was thrown into a trance. And in spite of the worsening weather, I just couldn’t take my eyes off her – her smile, her soulful blue eyes, her smooth olive skin, her ever shining long black hair. It was mesmerizing.
Suddenly she reached out her hand. I don’t know if minutes or hours passed. I just stood there, paralyzed, looking into her penetrating eyes, into her soul. I wanted the moment to last forever. In those blue sapphires I saw my own past and future, I saw sadness and hope lost in a deep and incomprehensible emptiness.
I had fallen into an undying love with this mysterious woman. It was a love so strong and pure that I wanted to die to be one with her, and to be with her- wherever that place may be.
Sometime later, I reached out my hand to her. For the first time we touched each other gently, carefully. Her deep blue eyes were hypnotizing. Her hand was soft, smooth, and I noticed that she was cold. Suddenly I felt deep harmony, a feeling that we shared everything with each other, and a sensation of finally being complete. Now I knew that she willingly shared with me the pain and hopelessness that she harbored inside of her.
Instantly, I was spellbound. Her blue eyes reflected the moonlight and bound my soul to hers. Her white transparent dress revealed a taut, slender figure underneath. I had to remind myself again that it was an apparition in human form I was looking at- But it mattered not to me anymore. I was already lost.
She was the only light on this nasty cold night. She was an angel, sent to me from the heavens above; a falling star requiring only my rescue, my warm embrace and love. My love for her was as deep, pure and clean as the water in a mountain lake.
I bent down on my knees and kissed her. And again, we both froze in time, and time stood still for us. Time itself was not existent anymore. It was just both of us in the Universe now. And we didn’t need anything else. We didn’t want anything more.
And as we found ourselves breathing our deep emotions, and softly warming our lips, while both of my hands were gently holding her face, my physical body tingled but my inner self drifted to the stars with this sensation. I couldn’t leave her anymore. Every ounce of my soul and every part of me belonged to her and loved her with eternal force.
As I relished this moment of sheer and inexplicable bliss, her face slowly moved away. A tear slid down her face. Her face faded while I was still lost in her eyes. And then she disappeared entirely. And now that she was gone, I felt incomplete.
I met her in the most unusual circumstances. But it mattered not to us, because we knew that we were meant for each other. Actually nothing mattered anymore, other than that we needed to be with each other. Just holding us close, cherishing our love. Until the end of time and far beyond.
She told me she loved me without speaking. Her love for me and her entire life was reflected in her eyes and it spoke more than any words could say. I reflected on her kiss; for which I had closed my eyes. And I realized that this time it was my tear slowly making it’s way down my face.
What was left behind, a distraught man, kneeling in the snow in front of an unknown grave; kneeling there like I knew her in life as I knew her in death.
Immense pain and sadness flowed like a raging river through me. The next thing I noticed was the ice cold wind on this dark and dreary winter night; which I had forgotten all about. I was still sitting on the frozen earth in front of the grave. Finally I stood up. I staggered. The wind whipped. I felt cold. I felt lost. So incredibly lost.
I returned to the cemetery the next night again, and the next. Every night I returned there for a long time. Sometimes I came to visit her grave with lovely white lilies and pink tulips. For whatever reason I imagined that lilies were her favorite flowers while she was in human form.
Sometimes I would talk to her, about the life we could have lived. About how we would have pleasured our souls and bodies, and the joy we would have surely shared. And imagined what all of that would have been like. Sometimes I spoke to her for hours but there was never an answer.
Days turned into weeks; weeks to months; months turned into years.
But she never returned. All that was carved into the stone at her grave indicated that she died over a century ago. Cause unknown. Maybe she died of a broken heart. I will never know. Over time the dream became a nightmare and almost destroyed me.
Nobody could ever tell me anything about her or her story. Eventually I moved away from this tiny town; away from all the memories, away from the immense pain.
But I never regretted any of it. And I never forgot her. I knew her deeply but I never knew her at all. It made me realize that there is something bigger than me, something bigger than all of us, and much greater than our self-serving agendas.
But on some ineffable realm, I felt I had freed her troubled soul. She had to leave me alone. There simply was no other way. And that’s all there was to it. I realized I gave her the only thing she ever wanted, the thing her spirit was searching for even in death. True Love.
And her search was finally over, I freed her undying earthbound spirit, forever free.
I returned to the old cemetery one last time before moving away from this town. It was another winter night and several years had already passed since I last saw her. And for one last time I put white lilies and pink tulips on her grave.
And for one last time I would sit on the very same old wooden bench in the cemetery, and as I looked up to the stars in this cold winter night, thinking about these strange memories which felt like they took place eternities ago, and feeling the cold wind softly drying up the tears in my face, I felt the sensation of immense peace with the universe.
I could see her now in every single star above me on the firmament, smiling at me like she did when she was still in my arms.
Our undying love remained.