Recent rain left shallow puddles in the gravel. Using my archaic ballerina skills, I leapt my non-lithe self over each small pool, wearing the new shoes that I would later curse a thousand times. I reached the door first and then the three of us; husband, sister, and I, entered the small room, which was probably 10 x 10 and already occupied by a couple who were pre-planning their memorials. I made a mental note to myself, of the intention to do the same. A gentleman sporting a Rinker & Frye Memorials ball cap greeted us with a smile and said he’d be with us real soon. We settled in and listened as the couple joked and laughed while finalizing their “final order”.
Industrial steel shelves held samples of stones, markers and graveside urns. I noticed a dinged-up institutional gray file cabinet had been secured with a safe lock, welded DIY style into the top drawer. Large catalogues and binders were stacked precariously on top. A floor fan oscillated quietly, fanning the still, dampish air in the room. The man’s desk could have passed for that of a passionate scholar; one with no time or desire to assimilate order. Neither the couple, nor the man seemed troubled by our intrusion.
It was our turn, and the unsought words I spoke were accompanied by tears. Husband and sister interjected and I bucked up and regained control. My husband commented that we’d tried to look up the company on the Internet to get a head start on browsing through the memorial options. “Here’s a good laugh for you,” the man said, as he handed us a thick binder. “Here’s our Internet.” My sister and I flipped through the memorial designs, while giving the essential information needed for our order. We narrowed it down and then finally agreed on one. We’d previously discussed wording, so that was one thing we didn’t have to squabble about.
“Now, do you remember if your grandparents’ stones were this color? Most people want the stones to match those already in the family plot.” “I’m pretty sure they are,” I said, “but I can check to be certain.” Rustling through my Mary Poppins travel bag, I found my phone and typed in findagrave.com. After inputting my grandmother’s name, I held the phone up to show the man the color of the gravestone. “Wow! You get the Internet on that little thing?” We all laughed. “Yes, I do!” I replied.
We hadn’t traversed the globe to some isolated village deep within a rainforest or canyon. We were in a small town in western Virginia, population 1870, where most things remain just as they were 40 or 50 years ago. This is not a land of Wal-Marts, or even Walgreens. The same buildings I entered as a child are for the most part still there, either in various states of disrepair, or dressed up in nouveau style in attempts to convince current sons and daughters to remain. With a population comparable to that of our local high schools, residents notice when you’re an “out-of-towner”.
Finishing the order, the man explained that it would be 4-6 weeks before the stone for my mother would be completed. The details and cost were reviewed and confirmed. “My dad is paying for it and I can call and get the credit card info now.” “No, no need for that. We’ll get it when we put it in. No worries.” Astonished, I turned to look at my husband who was just as shocked as I was. We’d just dealt with a crematory that wouldn’t proceed with my mother’s cremation prior to insuring they’d been assigned their portion of the insurance benefits. It’s always been our experience that people don’t engrave a key fob for you without the payment in advance!
Trust. That’s what we encountered that day. The kind of trust you have as a child, when your father tosses you into the air and catches you. The kind of trust you have as your eyes meet your spouse’s before entering the operating room, assuring you that they’ll be there when you return. The kind of trust usually possessed only by people who know you, love you, and have faith in you.
Can you even imagine how full of shining moments our lives would be if trust like this was more abundant? Why is it so difficult for us to trust in the goodness of our fellow human beings? Is it because we’ve trusted and been burned? Is it because we’ve been given plenty of reasons to be more than just a little bit cynical? Sometimes we say trust must be earned. Other times we say we freely trust until that bridge is burned. When is it appropriate to trust? Are we foolish to believe that if we trusted others more- our quality of life would improve?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 states:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
I would suggest the addition of “a time to trust”.
Our lives are composed of all of these “times”. Sometimes they arrive together, mixed up, out of logical order, and dreaded. Some times come when you least expect them. Other times are long awaited and welcomed.
My mother’s time to die had arrived. My time to mourn had travelled with it. But leaving that memorial store, my sadness became intermingled with a feeling of community. The man who’s facilitating the creation of my mother’s gravestone, had regarded my pain and had left me feeling that he commiserated with my sorrow. He’d trusted me and in return I’d deemed him as a man of integrity.
On that soggy day I arrived at a place that most enter during the darkness of our journeys, and I departed into the light, believing, that yes, there is a time for everything under the sun and even during the times we abide in the shadows, just like the optimistic shirts and ball caps claim, ”Life Is Good ®”.