Monday, January 08, 2007

The Peanut Man

Last August I visited my grandmother’s grave site at our local cemetery. During this visit, I noticed an elderly gentleman in his seventies walking across the cemetery with a bag of peanuts in his hand. By the strength of his gait, I could see that he was not merely wandering through but instead heading to a specific location. On the way, he would pick up fallen flowers arrangements and respectively place them back on their rightful headstones.

He finally stopped by a headstone that hid in between two cedar bushes. As he paused, he started up a conversation to what appeared to me to be with no one in particular. After a few minutes of observing this, what I incorrectly thought to be, “bizarre behaviour,” I finally realized that he was actually speaking to whoever was buried beneath this particular headstone. I didn’t have any idea as to who he was visiting but I was sure that whoever it was he must have been very close to.

Shortly after this brief conversation, he walked over to an old oak tree and proceeded to throw peanuts to the local grey squirrels. After this kind gesture, he turned around and headed back to his car. I got the feeling that feeding the squirrels was something that the person he was visiting used to do throughout their life and it only seemed like the right thing for him to do now that they were gone.

About a month later, I returned to the cemetery only to once again find this gentleman walking across the cemetery with a bag of peanuts in his hand. It was as if I was in a state of déjà vu. After the conversation at the gravesite, he again fed the squirrels and then promptly left as before. Up to date, I have seen this gentleman six times and each time, he follows the same routine.

Often, when a relative of ours departs this earth, we attend a funeral in their honour and return to our homes after the interment. For some of us, we may visit on a weekly basis, others annually while others never. I suppose that our visiting frequency of the grave site would depend on the relationship that we had with the person now deceased. Regarding this gentleman that I observed, it would appear to me that he was extremely close to the individual he was regularly visiting. I cannot help but assume that he felt some sort of comfort in conversing with this deceased individual.

Yesterday, while taking some photographs for another headstone blog that I was working on, I observed this gentleman yet again silently in conversation with whoever he felt such an attachment to. I would have loved to approach him and ask him as to whom he visited every week but fearing that I would be invading his privacy, I chose to silently observe off at a distance. After he left, I approached the grave site that he so religiously attended to get a better idea of who he had been visiting. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was probably his parents who were there resting in peace.

I can only imagine how much this seventy plus year old gentleman loved them and how much he missed them. If each of us could love our friends and family in life just a fraction as much as he loved them in death, our homes would be a much happier place to live and our lives so much richer. When I think back on all the times I witnessed this gentleman, the word that most often comes to me is "precious." How precious can one's love be for another!

Just after I snapped this photograph, I watched him as he kissed two fingers on his right hand and then lightly touch the headstone. If I was close enough, I am sure that his parting words to the ones he loved so much would be...

"Goodbye Mom and Dad, I will see you next week!”

8 comments:

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Very touching story. Would have loved it even if he didn't feed the grey squirrels. I understand the tension between asking and respecting someones privacy. Sometimes I think they would love to have an opportunity to talk about their loved one but I usually also take the safer route and respect their privacy.

Em said...

Marvelous vignette. It sounds like something I hope I will be calm enough to prioritize once I'm in that situation. It's frightening how the frantic pace of the world creeps into life and keeps us from doing to simple things that would keep us who we want to be.

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Le Nightowl said...

What a lovely story, Dave!
I'm sure if the gentleman notices your presence on occasion, he may choose one day to talk to you.
Sometimes the wondering is better than the knowing, which can be disappointing (and I'm not hinting to your previous post here (he he...)
Marie

Josie said...

What a lovely story. I hope you get a chance to talk to the gentleman one day. He may have a very interesting story to tell you.

I loved your bloopers blog as well. It gave me a good chuckle.

Cheers,
Josie

Janice said...

Beautiful and touching story Dave...you have a compassionate heart.

abbagirl74 said...

This story touched my soul. Thank you.

Becky Wolfe said...

That left me feeling rather sad! I hope he has live people that he can connect with as well. Maybe you'll get to meet him one of these times.

Dave said...

Hi LGS!...Thanks for your comment LGS. I am like you...taking the safer route.

Hi em... Nice to meet you! I agree, we need to slow down and do what is important to us. Thanks!

Hi Marie!...Thanks for your comment though I am starting to go through an identity crisis after the "dissapointing" three parter. :-)

You probably are right when you think that he probably notices me. I suppose he doesn't mind since he still comes at the samr time, same day of the week. Take care!

Hi Josie.. Thanks for your comment. I don't think, however, that I will ever approach him. Maybe because It just adds a certain amount of mystery not knowing all. Take care!

Hi Janice... Thanks for your kind words!

abbagirl... I am glad you were touched..I know that this experience touched me as well.

Hi Becky!... I am sorry it made you sad... Though death is often sad, it is also reason for a celebration of one's life.