It's holiday here. 4th July. Independence Day. Back home, I hardly find the time to be with myself. Now, I have the opportunity to take a walk among the silent. I am not going to join the crowd in Jack London Square.
I like to take a walk to the cemetery. Last week, I took a walk to the lake. I find it surprising that people give me a morbid look when I bring up this point. Sure, it is not an everyday place to walk around. Then again, if death is a certainty, shouldn't we contemplate about it and take a stroll around the park where you are going to hang around for quite some time?
Unlike the way when I was in Munich some 10 years back, the walk around the Jewish cemetery was different. I surveyed the tombstone. Desperately trying to figure out the Hebrew inscriptions, reading out their names in my mind.
This is the first Hebrew community that settled in Oakland.
BTW, the walk from 10th street from Broadway took me an hour, so by the time I reached the Jewish cemetery, I was quite thirsty. Two sips of water, and that will do. Water discipline, they used to call that in my military training.
As I said, I read their names. The year they were born and died. Taking a mental average of lifespan.
Reading the words or inscriptions on the tombstone. There were a few variants:
1. XXYY, beloved son/father/grandfather...
2. XXYY, loving husband/father/grandfather...
3. XXYY born DDMMYYYY, died DDMMYYYY
Very seldom do I come across:
XXYY, loving and beloved...
People are treasured by relationships. These relationships are marked by the love you give and the love you received. They are finally ropes that still remains after you leave.
As simple and obvious as it is, it is often missed out that relationships are only forged through time and devotion. Time and devotion are the base commodity when we want to have relationships. Yet, how often we give that up for something else. We trade it with career. We trade it with folly.
There were a few other tombstones that struck me hard. One of them belonged to a father and a son. It only have the left side of the tombstone marked, therefore, I presumed that the wife/mother is still surviving. He was six when he died. He was forty. For that six years, he must have been their joy. Barely three years after the boy died, the father passed away too. A complete tragedy. Reminds me of Naomi in the book of Ruth.
I walked further. Snapping pictures of the serendipity. Yes, one of the greatness of coming over to the cemetery is that nobody is going to quarrel with me. Nobody is going to scold me, or shout at me, or demand me to do things or tasks. It is quiet. Time is somewhat frozen. It is good. I like it. I like the convenience of city life, but I like the peacefulness here.
The last tombstone that struck me was one which have kept me thinking. It must have belonged to a baby. Death has no respect for age.
It was a sad story. Written by a brother to another.
To my baby brother... born 6 months 24 days.
I felt the pain. I am lost to what tragedy happened that rapped off the joy of a new coming. It was a terrible sight. The words were few.
I sipped in the last look, capturing the sights and sound or lack of it. Embedding it into my being. Regaining strength within. Returning to humility that God still holds our every breadth, and I am not immune to death. I need to focus on what I really want to do with this short journey in light of the lessons I have learned from the tombstones.