A Letter To The Man Two Graves Down

Your name is Jerry.

I probably visit you more than I should, considering I have absolutely no idea who you are. Or, am I supposed to say who you were? I’m going to say who you are, because I know you still exist in the hearts and memories of those who love you.

I don’t remember when it happened. I just know that one day, I headed to the cemetery with the intention of visiting my friend, and I found myself drawn to your grave instead. It was like I was a magnet being pulled by the irresistible force of the metallic mystery of your memory. Next thing I knew, I was sitting on your bench, pouring my heart out to you. You now officially know me better than anyone with a pulse ever did.

Maybe I was drawn to the guitars on your headstone; Every song I never got to hear you play. Or maybe, it was your picture; Your smile laser-engraved into the marble surface, like the hearts of anyone whose life you’ve ever touched. Perhaps I was enamored with all of the puppy figurines loyally sitting and waiting to welcome you to Eternity, scattered among the beer bottles displayed as pieces of art rather than symptoms of an addiction. Of course, all of this accompanied by the lone figurine of Homer Simpson. You were a Soldier, judging by the change collecting atop your headstone. However, you seem humble about it. There isn’t any patriotic memorabilia here. Of all the things in your life to define yourself by, your time served doesn’t appear to be one of them. In a way, that in itself is admirable. Just like all of the plants and little trinkets crowding your headstone, cluttering your epitaph with remnants of your memory, left behind like all of the love you never had the time to give. I wish I knew your story. I can tell you were well-loved. Maybe that’s what draws me here.

I try to water your plants when I can. There’s something inspirational in their growth, marking the passage of time. My favorite is the white rosebush, each flower a miracle despite the absence of direct sunlight. Each petal, a silent prayer that I’ve said for you and your family.

I think I saw your mother once. I was sitting on the bench by my friend’s grave, and I noticed her sitting on the bench at your grave, crying. I don’t think she saw me, though. The giant bush next to my friend’s headstone created a barrier between us. A strange part of me was tempted to walk over there and give her a hug and let her know that you are still touching the hearts of strangers, even in death.

The way that we die does not define us. The way that we are remembered after we are gone does. You were only 29 years old, four years older than I am now. You clearly made the most of every moment, and your memory will be cherished for years to come. When my time runs out, I hope the love that I leave behind touches the life of a stranger in the same way that yours has touched mine. I hope you are at peace. I’m sorry I never got the chance to meet you, but maybe someday, I will. If that day ever comes, I hope you’ll teach me every chord of your favorite song.

By then, you’ll probably know all of mine by heart.