When I was very young I lived in Pittsburgh and one of my favorite things to do was take walks in the old cemeteries there. It was not a morbid fascination, or at least it never felt so to me; instead I felt like a detective, tracking a flu epidemic from 1915, or trying to determine family relationships by the layout of the gravestones. Somehow seeing how people died gave me an idea of how they lived so very long ago. I remember very few specific discoveries from these visits, though I do remember one time seeing the grave of a girl named Emma who died when she was the age I was when I saw the grave, it made my scalp feel funny.
I guess I haven't really grown out of this pastime entirely.
I took this photo a little over a year ago on a trip to Arizona. I think about it more than you might suppose. I have seen grave-markings for husbands and wives before, the ones where one spouse has already died and the other spouse's name there waiting to fulfill it's carved destiny. "Together Forever" they often say, as this one does. When I think of the grave photographed above I am filled with questions. Perhaps it is because the couple is so young, the wife only 41, the husband 7 years older. I can't help but wonder which of them decided to have a joint gravestone? Was it her final wish? Did he do it in an act of solidarity?
I can't help but think of the possibility that he will get married again, and then I wonder how the new wife will feel knowing that her husband's forever has been promised to someone else. Things take on a certain weightiness when they are carved in stone. Would this next marriage just be a short diversion, borrowed from forever? Will he try to forget he has a spot waiting for him in this cemetery? Or will he patiently live his remaining days reassured that he will be reunited with his wife underground? I won't ever know, and that is more than okay, but for some reason I can't stop wondering.