What: Making an after-dark stopover in a local graveyard on All Hallows Eve.
Why: I’d like you to meet a friend of mine. She just turned 121 this month. In 1880, her father, John C. Monster, secured a donation claim in the Renton Valley, down the hill from my home. He and his brother Frank Jr. raised some 50 head of cattle along the railroad that cuts the lowlands, down past the Four Cows Wide underpass. Never did the Monsters lose a single cow to the coal cars that rocketed through the valley, quite a proud accomplishment. Sadly, John’s family fortunes were not so pleasant. In late October of 1888, as the sky turned that comforting shade of grey it would not relinquish for six moons, John’s wife Louisa gave birth to a baby girl. Within four months, before seeing the clouds part, the child was dead. No pastor ever came to christen her, and so she never gained a proper Christian name. Thus, in a forgotten cemetery occluded by the Winco overlooking Highway 167, Baby Monster lies buried with her father, the namesake of Renton’s famed Monster Road. I have just returned from a past-dusk visit to Baby Monster’s gravesite, where I patted her headstone and promised her that her friends would think of her this Halloween.
Impact: If there is any one action that defines “human,” it’s caring where our dead lie. Animals note another’s passing, suffer disorientation, and move on. Humans rarely surrender our dead to the elements without a fight. We cluster them in cabinets as we clutched them in life, walking among them when they can walk no more. In our waking dreams, we see them caught between here and our various not-heres. One night a year, some of us even dress like them, perhaps to tell them we’ll be along soon.
Personal Connection: Some of you have chosen, in your mind’s eye, to vanish. You will be cremated, perhaps, and kept in a jar or scattered in the air. For you expect that you will either be someplace, and thus not need your remnants in this mortal realm, or noplace, and thus need nothing at all. But I shall not be among you. I will tear a chunk from this earth, and claim it as mine. I will proudly display for all who are willing to know: I was here. If I beat you out of this temporal world, come visit my tombstone. You never know, I might just say hello.
Other Contenders: go to a kickin’ costume party; crank Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” till your speakers bleed; curl up under a heavy couch blanket and watch the greatest tale of faith ever, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; sit by the door and wait for trick or treaters to beg for candy; eat most of said candy.