It was a lovely autumn noon. Me, my parents and my granny were on our way to visit relatives. Everyone was a bit on edge as these family gatherings tend to be extremely awkward and competitive so they thought it was the perfect time to express their views on political matters which is always so delightful.
For these reasons I was rather annoyed when we arrived at the cemetery. Our final destination was visiting live relatives (although visiting the dead ones can be competitive, too, as our culture has a knack of graveside landscape design) but my granny also wanted to pay our respects to the deceased because she can't go there by herself too often.
I used this opportunity to keep my distance and to gather my wits before standing in front of the Grand Jury on matters of finance and romance. I raked the leaves and started looking about. I was pleasantly surprised to notice I felt at ease - previously I've always felt uncomfortable in graveyards, jumpy even. I started looking around, observing the old, shadowy trees, leaves swirling down. There are mossy graves with old German names, barely possible to read now, Lithuanian names (it's close to the border). Sometimes I would notice a name I have heard, probably from a local gossip. I was mostly enjoying the nature, though.
At that point, I think it's important to admit, I felt anxious and a bit depressed because of the visit but the graveyard felt to me like a park, graves - just like some monuments dedicated to soldiers. However, when we were about to leave, I approached a graveside, almost from behind. Suddenly I thought to myself - aha, a young girl. Then I got scared because I couldn't know it was a young girl, really. I rarely visit there and I have consciously memorized just our family spot, a few graves around it and some grave with, I think, Lithuanian name on the way in because it is so close to the path, you almost step on it and that makes me feel bad.
The more I tried to brush the impression off, the more persistent it got. I don't really know how to explain it. The kind of presence I felt was like... It wasn't even physical. Let me give you a picture here. You are hanging out with your friends, watching a movie, laughing about this or that. Suddenly someone says - oh, it's too bad John isn't here. And you feel it would be just perfect if John was here, like he is truly missing at your party. That is the kind of presence I am speaking about. You don't miss John's appearance - it's such a pity he's not here, the sofa looks awful without him. You don't miss any particular quality - oh, John isn't lazy, he would've brought me beer. You miss his presence, his being, I don't know what word to use. That is what I felt - like there was this presence of a particular young girl.
It wasn't threatening or anything, I just got freaked out by my own old self. Then I also noticed (or perhaps before, I can't place these two in order because maybe that directed my attention to the grave) that a candle had fallen off the edge of the gravestone and I felt I should probably pick it up and place it back. There was this little angel figurine, too, and I thought maybe that was why I decided it was a young person, although I am not sure I saw it from where I was coming. I don't know why, people just don't place angels on the graves of adults and elderly, maybe it's because jobs and wrinkles don't seem angelic and old people mostly don't like flying (sorry, couldn't resist a joke).
I approached the front and counted the numbers that added up to 23 years. A girl. The graveside was neatly raked, not just raked to sweep away the footsteps from the sandy soil, someone had even made ornaments in the sand in the traditional manner. I thought it was a perfectly good practical reason not to get involved (I was scared to do something awfully wrong and cause something terribly bad) - I didn't want to ruin someone's thorough work.
So I started stepping away slowly, having that internal fight with myself. I knew I had to go and put that candle back but I told myself - come on, it will fall off again when it gets windy, who cares, the candle is probably burnt out anyway. This isn't an abandoned grave, someone will come. The grave was cared for. I can't go around picking up everything. As I later explained to my friend - I was probably worried that when you go to Heaven, you still have to be preoccupied with order. I am messy and I have been persecuted all my life for that. I hope when we die, we don't care anymore about such nonsense. I don't want anyone to visit me in dreams telling me to clean up under my bed!
Finally, I, rather unwillingly, went back and placed that candle on the stone. I prayed to God to take care of this young soul and to protect me because I mostly had no idea what I was doing so God had to take care of me. And, as I walked back to the car, I suddenly felt really happy and warm around my shoulders. It wasn't the jolly kind of happiness, more like this - all is right kind of happiness.
And it stayed with me until we found out my cousin had lost a lot of weight which made everyone feel plenty of things;)
Thank you kindly for reading this experience,
P.S. My granny saw me by the girl's grave and she told us about her - it was some kind of tragic, unexpected death. I'm saying this because it might be that she had told this to me before (the girl had died several years ago) as the grave was on the way out and maybe I had unconsciously memorized it. It would be honest to mention this option.