My Canadian uncle sent me this picture the other day because his wife, my dad's sister, recently died of cancer. And my dad, as you know if you read this blog, died of cancer two Octobers ago. So it was kind of a "can you believe they're both gone?" gesture.
When I look at any picture of my dad, all I see is my dad, and then my thoughts immediately go off into how strange it is that he isn't calling me five times a day anymore and how surreal it is to see an image of him and have some part of me fail to understand he's not still alive. So I didn't pay any attention to where the picture was taken, but when I showed it to Brent, he immediately said, "Weird, your dad's standing at his cemetery."
I said, "Wait, what?" because I couldn't believe I'd missed that he's standing in the cemetery where his crypt is, but that might be at least partially because the picture was taken before the hideous murals went up. (If you want to read about two of them, you can here and here.) Sometime after 2000, the year of this photo, some power at the cemetery decided what that crypt structure really needed was a depiction of Yentl getting married in heaven, but on the day that my dad visited above, everything was still white.
My dad and his sister would have been there visiting their mom's grave, which is in the lawn burial part of the park. From where they're standing in this picture, that grave would be behind and to the left of the camera person. So what ends up being strange about this photo is that my dad is randomly standing directly in front of his future crypt, which is directly over his right shoulder. His body is now in the spot where I put the highlighted blue dot (you'll probably have to click on the picture to enlarge and be able to see it):
He hadn't bought the crypt at the time, so the juxtaposition is an uncanny one, for a number of reasons. One, there are multiple wings to the crypt structure, so the exact positioning is notable. Two, he wasn't visiting the crypt part of the grounds, so it's odd that that's where he and his sister decided to stop and pose. Three, there's the weirdness of a photo existing of my dad in a cemetery because he hated going to them (he's trying to put on a good face about it here- neither of us knows how to smile all that great for a camera). And four, someone really wanted to take a picture right there and then? Wait until you go have lunch at Dinah's across the street, you know?
I'm not the type to think that there's some profound, time-bending message in the picture, like that my dad or the universe just "knew" that the drawer over his shoulder was going to be his crypt and so that's why he stood where he stood. But the picture totally stunned me for a good few hours, I think because it's an image of my dad, alive, juxtaposed against where he lies, dead. It's just an in-your-face artifact of change. The murals are now up. My dad is now in a box, in the wall. Before him, I had never had someone integral to me die, and so the only idea I had of how I'd feel about it came from movies and how fictional people appeared to miss other fictional people. I think movies can do a pretty good job of capturing a more general feel of sadness, especially if the right sad song is playing underneath a scene, but they can't really get at what it's like to be an adult and to be unable to wrap your head around someone really important being here, and then not here. When you were a kid and your parents had your sick dog put to sleep while you were napping, you were at the mercy of the same lack of comprehension, except you were a kid, and so that was just the expected and natural limit of your imagination. When you were a kid you didn't project into the future, where you'd be turning your mind in unsatisfying loops around the concept of not seeing someone ever again, except trapped in old photos.