by Terry Thornton
One recent morning I was doing some field work in a Hill Country cemetery when I noticed a newly opened grave. The grave diggers and their machines had come and gone; the area around the freshly dug grave was mowed and manicured. It was obvious that later that day a burial would take place.
As far as I could determine I was the only living thing in the cemetery --- and I resolved to take a good look at the opened grave as I'd never had an opportunity to really look at a grave as a geological feature.
I finished my work in the cemetery and on the way out, went back to the opened grave and noted that it was for R. U. READY. I took the following photograph of the grave; the cemetery workers had yet to set in the vault. The grave was exactly as I expected to see in the Hill County --- deep.
The noon-day sun helped to illuminate the depths of the grave and the freshly dug earth had a sweet smell, the pleasant odor of rich bottom lands which farmers so highly prize in the hill land of my home county. The dirt dug from the grave had been removed and carried to the other side of the cemetery where, when needed, it would be brought back to the grave site to cover the burial. Probably before the graveside services the freshly dug mound of rich dirt will be draped with green carpet so that the mouners aren't reminded that the ground was opened.
The lawn around the grave was mainly undistrubed. I stood and looked --- and I walked around the hole and considered. I had dozens of questions about how they dug such a precise, straight-walled grave without adversly distrubing the surface around the grave? But most of my questions concerned Mr. Ready, the man. And I was so engrossed with the open grave questions flooding my mind that I forgot to take but the one photograph of it.
Will Mr. Ready be remembered kindly? Did Mr. Ready have a life free of misery or just enough? Was Mr. Ready a doer and a giver --- or was he a taker and a slacker? Does Mr. Ready have children and grandchildren to continue his kind --- or did he commit genetic death by not reproducing?
Did Mr. Ready study difficult subjects, and if so, which helped him through the years of his life the most? Was Mr. Ready a friendly man or was he aloof from his neighbors? What made Mr. Ready laugh? Did anything ever make him cry?
So many questions --- and few answers. The open pit was to receive his body within the next few hours --- his final earthly abode was prepared and waiting.
The cemetery where the grave was dug for Mr. Ready is a lovely spot but not so lovely as to make one hasten his permanent residence there. Surrounded on two sides by running streams (one of which gurgled as gravity pulled the water down) and heavy woods, the cemetery itself was an oasis of green, well-cared for lawn. No trees nor bushes spoiled the view and the spot of Mr. Ready's grave was in the sunny part of the cemetery. Further back into the older section of the burying ground the trees outside the cemetery provided good shade --- and it appeared that Mr. Ready was joining someone in his family who pre-deceased him if the side-by-side placement of his grave was any indication.
The cemetery was silent except for birds singing and the faint gurgling of the running brook. The breeze stirred the leaves and made the light dapple across the large grave markers. The silence was broken by the far-off whistle of a train on its run to Birmingham, a fitting sound to break the almost hypnotic awareness of being in a garden spot that is silent --- and peaceful --- and welcoming.
No doubt within a short number of minutes, the crew will arrive from the funeral home to erect the tent, to unfold the carpet, then set out chairs around a device which conceals the fact that a large hole has been dug into the ground. Most funeral directors are masters at making a sad event seem completely divorced from the fact that beneath all their drapes and devices is just a hole in the ground --- and perhaps that is best.
But I'm glad I got a good look at Mr. Ready's grave. It was just a well formed hole in the ground. I only hope that the hole to be dug one of these days for me will be done with the precision and care that went into the digging of Mr. Ready's.
As I walked away from the open hole I continued to be flooded with questions about Mr. Ready and the process awaiting him in the cemetery. Will there be "someone" waiting in the cemetery for Mr. Ready? Will the spirits of the cemetery welcome him home? Will someone say to the spirits of the cemetery when Mr. Ready arrives "Oh, spirits of the cemetery, welcome your brother R. U. Ready."
I hope so.
What about you. Are you ready? Was Mr. Ready ready?