Things I found at the Garden of Remembrance in the Paisley's Woodside Cemetery, on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland
I found this tree against a white sky bursting with clouds. Its leafless branches twisted and bent in wry circuits of dormant life. A rooted testament to the stubbornness of the Scottish Lowlands. Green vines had began to slither above the frozen ground, to creep up the tree trunk, to climb and encroach, claiming back the mantle of verdure covering the dead like a blanket.
I found this tombstone. It was shaped like a heart and its elaborate contours had survived cruel winters, hail storms, and gusty winds. Sculpted inside the heart was a long-haired woman or maybe an angel with wings that looked like auburn tresses. The long-haired/winged angel is holding a cross that seemed untouched by time or nature. Rain water had filled the shallow crevasses and the soft nooks of the heart washing out most of the woman, leaving intact only her hair and a black cross shining in the dimlight like a sword.
I found a Christmas wreath. Acorns, cinnamon bundles, Christmas balls and a green bow made of Paisley-patterned ribbon adorned the wreath. It was left for Susan Simpson, an 18-year old woman who died in 1967. Her parents didn't bring the wreath. I know this much. They died in the eighties and are buried with her in a family mausoleum. Who loves Susan Simpson so much that 45 years after her death she still gets fresh flowers and a lovely wreath? Whoever you were, Susan (can I call you Susy?) here's to you and Merry Christmas.
I am here to meet my mother-in-law for the first time. I stand atop a soft Scottish Hill and wait for her to beckon me. A freezing February wind makes its way under my scarf and a cold current runs from the base of my skull down the highway of my spine. I have been looking forward to meeting her for many years and neither the cold nor the eeariness of the place will deter me from being in her presence. The grass is frozen and makes a crackling noise, like burning twigs, as I walk to our meeting point. I step on someone's memories, I trip on someone's son, I stand casually above someone's first love. I am here to meet the mother of the man I love.
I find a spot on one side of the garden and wait for her. I know she is small and frail looking like a feverish little girl. I know she is thin and anything can blow her away unexpectedly: her children's laughter, Connie Francis, other people's pain, love, and the song A Whiter Shade of Pale. I know she is scattered here where many years ago her children offered her ashes to the wind.
A visitor left a bouquet of wild urchins on a bench. I devote my attention to one flower in particular. My husband's mother is now a lavender urchin.
"I would have loved you," I tell her.
A kinder breeze which seems to come all the way from the Gleniffer Braes brushes past my face. A caress maybe. I think it is her way to tell me, "I would have loved you too."