139 / 140 – Stones

JODI NILSSON

Lars was here with some documents to sign. It seems like he’s here every week with different things. I said, “Why is this taking so long? Why do I have to keep signing all these papers?” He said it’s the only way to keep it out of court. He says if we go to court, we’ll lose more of the farm. I don’t know what he’s talking about. We’re not losing anything, not our half of what’s left.

Sometimes I think he keeps dragging this out, just to test me. He asked me about Laura. He went to New York and got her things, the few that are left. He said the police know nothing. He said he doesn’t know what to think. He doesn’t want to give up hope, but he can’t imagine she would just disappear like that. I didn’t say anything. I thought, whether her body is breathing or not, she has not been alive for a long time. “Do you ever pray for her?” I thought, Pray for her? I’ve been praying for her every day since she finally admitted … finally admitted how low she had let herself sink. What she had let herself become. Yeah, I told him that.

She is part of our regular circle of prayer. Lars, he has no idea how people have been trying to care for her. We’ve prayed for her for years.

Brother Porter asked me what we should do. Now that we have finished restoring the church building, and the old parsonage house for him, we’ve been landscaping and cleaning up the cemetery behind the church. Unbelievable what state that had fallen in. We pulled the weeds around the stones, but back bushes that had sprung up. There are lots of familiar last-names on the headstones. You’d think people would have been taking a little bit better care. If you ask me, maybe it’s a problem with our culture now, our disposable culture. People die and then we throw ‘em away in the ground and move on. I don’t know why else a cemetery would look so abandoned as that if people were coming regularly. Most of the other cemeteries around here, people clean them up at least once a year.

Our cemetery is starting to look nice and neat again. After Wednesday meeting a few weeks ago, Brother Porter was standing around afterward, hemming and hawing, while we had some coffee. I finally had to ask. Something seemed to be bothering him.

“Well,” he said, “I wanted to know about your plans.” I laughed. I shouldn’t do that, but I guess I have some bitterness. I said, “What plans? My husband is divorcing me, my daughter betrayed me, and my son and I are trying to keep our old family farm. What plans would I have?” He wanted to know if I planned to be buried in the cemetery. He had cleaned out a nice area from the woods behind it — well, where there was a row of bushes in front of the woods. He was trying to decide what should be done with it, whether he should enclose that and make it part of the cemetery, or whether that wouldn’t be needed. And might Lars want a plot there, too? I almost laughed at that. “I have no idea what Lars wants. But if you ask him, he’ll probably shove some papers in your face and make you sign them.” I said, “When people’s lives are all topsy turvy and upside down, when everything is different from one day to the next because they’re going through a divorce or maybe they’ve lost their job, you don’t talk to them about headstones. You don’t want me thinking about how this divorce could kill me. You want me thinking about going on living, on faith.” He turned pink and I could see that he was embarrassed. I tried to think of something to say so he wouldn’t feel so embarrassed.

So then I said maybe there would be a stone for Laura. Lars won’t do it. I brought it up when he was here with the papers and he coiled up like a snake, all angry. “HOW COULD YOU DO THAT? SHE’S NOT DEAD. YOU JUST WANT HER TO BE DEAD.” And I said, I don’t know that she’s dead, but I don’t feel her alive. Mothers, you feel your children alive, even when they’re not with you, not near you. And I haven’t felt like she was alive in a long time.

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