About a year and a half ago, my father asked if I would like to accompany him to West Covina, California to visit my grandfather. I wasn't too excited about visiting him (he is quite the male chauvinist), but knew the visit would give me an opportunity to visit my grandmother's grave. She had passed about 4 years prior to this and I hadn't visited her since her funeral service.
I got along great with my grandmother and missed her terribly. She was such a classy lady and would take my grandfather's insults and abuse in stride. She definitely understood the meaning of "rising above". So I agreed to this week-long trip, thinking visiting the gravesite would make the trip worthwhile, and soon found myself on a plane to California.
The second day into the visit, my dad took me up to Forest Lawn Memorial in Covina, California. This cemetery is the largest and most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen in my life. My grandmother's plot sits right on top of a small hill, giving her the most beautiful view of Covina Hills. It's just gorgeous and, since her passing, my father and I have always joked that, "at least she got a room with a view!"
We brought her a beautiful bouquet of purple roses and sat around at her gravesite exchanging fond memories of her life. After a while, my father stood up and said he was going down the small hill to find the grave of one of his friends that had passed recently. I watched him walk a fair distance away and kneel down at what I assumed was the gravesite he was looking for. I stayed sitting at my grandmother's grave and decided to "pretty it up" a bit - pulling weeds, arranging the flowers so they were more aesthetically pleasing, that sort of thing. After about ten minutes of this, a man walked up to my grandmother's grave carrying a bouquet of white roses (roses of any color were my grandmother's favorite and she had several rosebushes of her own in her backyard). I had not seen him walk up, but only noticed him as he was almost standing over me. I hadn't seen him look at any of the plaques like you would if you were searching for a grave. He seemed to know exactly where he was going. This struck me as odd, but I just assumed he had probably been to her grave multiple times over the past few years.
The second thing that struck me as odd was his attire. I would expect someone to dress proper when visiting a loved one's grave, but this man just looked SO dapper. He wore tan trousers that were expertly pressed, a cream collared shirt with a light yellow and medium blue plaid tie, a tan "Eisenhower" style jacket, and dark brown quarter brogues. His hair was parted on the side and slicked back. Ok, not so weird. My grandfather looks and dresses the same. Only this guy was young, like late 20's to early 30's.
I have to admit it was quite an odd sight, but his face looked so peaceful and happy - like he was just a really nice guy. So when he spoke to me, I spoke back. Our conversation was as follows:
HIM: Hello, there. (Big smile)
ME: Hey! Are you here to visit (my grandmother's name)?
HIM: (Nods head) Yes, I am.
ME: I don't think we've met before. I am her granddaughter -
ME: Yeah, I take it you've heard of me before?
HIM: (chuckles) Oh, yes. Good things, of course. I am David; it's nice to meet you Bri.
ME: Well, it's nice to meet you, too. How did you know my grandmother?
HIM: Oh, I knew her a long time ago. (Places white roses in metal vase at her grave)
ME: My dad, (says dad's name), is here. Have you met him?
HIM: No, I haven't. But I have heard a lot about him, too. (Smiles)
ME: Well, I will call him over here. I am sure he would love to meet one of grandma's friends.
HIM: (Smiles and does a little "half-nod")
So I stand up and, with my back to David, walk about 20 feet from where I was sitting. I call down to my dad, who is still at his friend's grave.
ME: DAD! HEY, DAD!
DAD: (Looks up from his friend's grave marker) WHAT?
ME: THERE IS THIS GUY UP HERE I WANT YOU TO MEET! HE IS ONE OF GRANDMA'S FRIENDS!
DAD: WHAT GUY?!
ME: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? THE GUY BACK HERE...
I turn around to find no one there. The white roses he brought were no longer in the vase. The area surrounding my grandmother's grave is just a huge grassy area. They use plaques to mark graves, so there are no headstones to hide behind. To get to an area where you can't be seen from this part of the cemetery, you literally have to DRIVE. There is NOWHERE this guy could have gone in the few seconds my dad and I were talking. My dad ended up coming to where I was standing, which took him a minute. Once there:
DAD: You said there was a guy?
ME: Yeah, this guy that said he was a friend of Grandma's.
DAD: What was his name?
DAD: (Eyes become as big as dinner plates) Briana, grandma didn't know anyone named David. Do you understand me? We are leaving now so grab your stuff.
ME: Seriously? I wasn't done visiting -
So we hurried to the car and drove off. I certainly thought the experience was weird, but my father's reaction was even weirder. A few days later my grandfather asked me to create a scrapbook for him of all of his pictures of my grandmother. It was intended to chronicle her life from her birth in 1914, all the way to her last years. I was bored and enjoyed creative activities so I decided to do it. I had a blast looking at all the old black-and-whites of her growing up and all throughout her younger years.
But then I came upon a box with some grainy black and whites of her with some random man. It was obvious they were a couple, but it wasn't my grandfather. I came across one that was clearer and immediately recognized him as the man from the graveyard. Only this was taken in the 40's!
I took the picture out to my grandfather and asked him about it. He told me it was a picture of my grandmother's first husband, David. First husband! I never even knew she was married to anyone other than my grandfather. He told me about how they had been happily married until one day David walked out to their barn and knocked over a shotgun that blew his face off. He died instantly. Wow, I was reeling. It was a lot to take in. However, it finally gave me some answers to my experience in the cemetery.
My favorite thing about it though is how sweet it was. Even after all these years, and him having his life tragically cut short, he had enough love for her to drop by and leave some love at her grave. That thought warms my heart - the thought that love transcends even death. It's an experience I will carry with me the rest of my life.