Mortality and Thanksgiving: Why Cemeteries Are Good Spots on Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving morning I found myself walking through a cemetery, thinking about aging and mortality.

Not, initially, because of the tombs. No, I was feeling old because this cemetery, huge and scenic, used to be a favorite run of mine when visiting my Bay Area cousins. And lately I’ve been struggling with a knee injury and have pretty much given up running while I let my meniscus heal. And I slipped on a steep driveway and whammed the hell out of my tailbone. And I turned 56 and found a bunch of grey hairs nesting in the under-layer at my temples.

OK, that last one doesn’t count as an injury. Or even an insult. I don’t MIND the idea of aging…as long as it stays an idea. The reality, I’m discovering, is not quite as easy-peasy.

And that’s what I was thinking about on Thanksgiving as I walked through the cemetery. Which is why these fallen leaves brought me so much joy. “Look!” I could imagine the leaves saying. “Color! Let’s celebrate our impending demise!”

Goodbye cruel world!

Is that not the best defense against inevitable decay: celebration? Color? Suddenly I was seeing it everywhere, like these petals on the sidewalk.

So much was I appreciating my own personal discovery of the “when I am old I will wear purple” approach, that I nearly walked by this startling tombstone:

Well, hello there!

Wing, you see, is not a common last name. In fact it’s quite rare. And it’s certainly not Jewish! So seeing this stone with its Hebrew letters in the Jewish section of the cemetery (anyone else find denominational cemeteries ridiculous?), well…it gave me pause.

And then, like the colored leaves and petals, it gave me joy.

Because I’m mortal, I appreciate the beauty and the time and the health that still remains for me. If I weren’t, I’d take it all for granted. I’d walk right by those leaves and petals. I would forget to cherish the non-splendid, ordinary  moments that are the equivalent of leaves in a sidewalk.

You know what I mean: those thanksgiving moments—with a small “t.” The ones that count the most.

Happy those.