Where we live: An act of remembrance
By Chris Reber
Shortly after New Year’s, I was forwarded a note from a woman named Paula.
Paula is in her 80s, and she is a widow. Her husband has been gone for about a decade, but he’s still very important in her life.
In fact, it’s not often that she leaves the house without stopping at his grave site.
“If I don’t go up there when I leave the house, to go up to visit or just talk to him, I feel like I’m neglecting him,” she said.
She doesn’t walk as well as she used to, so she pulls onto the grass where there are no graves. I don’t think any of the cemetery’s inhabitants mind.
The stone itself is a short walk away. It bears both their names, linked by wedding rings. There’s a plaque for her husband’s military service, a flag holder, and a vase where she puts flowers for occasions like Valentine’s Day.
Keeping the stone looking well-tended is important to Paula, which is why she contacted the newspaper.
For Christmas, she bought a wreath to hang on the stone. She planned to hang it with a device that a relative gave her. The plastic hook was marketed as a wreath hanger specifically for gravestones.
Just a couple days after hanging the wreath from her husband’s gravestone, she returned to the cemetery and noticed it was gone. She walked around to see if it had blown away, but she couldn’t find it.
A few days later, a big snowstorm hit and she couldn’t visit the grave. Even after the snow melted, an illness kept her from visiting the grave.
While she was at home, the missing wreath bothered her. She didn’t want people to think that her husband had been forgotten at the holidays - she didn’t want him to think that he’d been forgotten at the holidays.
She thought it unlikely that the wreath had blown away. In the nine years she’d been placing flowers on her husband’s grave, they had never blown away.
Eventually she decided to write a letter to the newspaper, seeing if anyone knew the location of the wreath.
She said if it was taken, she hoped that they would have a change of heart and decide to return it.
“It means nothing to them, but it means everything to me,” she said.
After receiving her letter, I called her and asked if it would help if I did a story.
When Paula’s church heard about the missing wreath, they were happy to help see what happened to it.
But in the meantime, I wanted to visit the grave with her to help write my story.
She was, of course, planning to stop there that afternoon. The doctor’s orders could only keep her inside for so long.
It was a windy cold afternoon, but sunny.
She showed me her husband’s grave, and pointed out the surrounding graves, which still had their holiday decorations.
We talked and took some pictures by the gravestone. I pointed to a few wreaths on graves, asking if they resembled the one she got for her husband.
No, she said each time.
“Did it look like that one?” I said, pointing to a wreath that was away from the graves, near some bushes.
Indeed, it was her wreath.
Though we were both masked, I could tell that her spirits were lifted. She hung the wreath on the flower vase.
“He helped me find it,” she said. I thought she was talking to me, but it’s also possible she was talking to her husband.
While it might have appeared for a time that no one had cared to decorate the grave, that was just not true. And while the wreath holder failed, Paula made sure that there was no mistaking that her husband was remembered.
“That’s what you do when you’re married 60 years,” she said.