Of Stones and People
Here we are, on the cusp of Memorial Day, when we honor and remember those who died serving our country.
And, it’s a busy time for guiding here as schools across the country wind up the year with a DC trip. Most include a foray to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.
The Cemetery is my favorite place to visit. If that sounds odd, it’s really not. It can be an exquisite and serene oasis in the city. When quiet there is the rustle of wind in trees and the chorus of birds punctuated, as always, by the clatter of hooves on asphalt and gunfire in the distance as a final honor is bestowed. Few words are needed to tell the story of this place.
The Cemetery is immense, some 630 acres, with tens of thousands of headstones, many of the uniform type, but thousands of others of all sizes and shapes. For me, the stones have blended with the natural setting in a way to become almost one and the same. They are as periods at the end of sentences we will never read.
Two days ago I was with a group of fifth graders for two days when on the evening of the first day one of them asserted that they had seen a “ghost” at Arlington earlier. “Right”, I answered back, to then be told there was a photo of the encounter which I obviously requested to see.
Out came the smartphone, and there, sure enough, in the center, was what looked to be a faint image of a long-ago soldier quietly attending–present and accounted for on the field of honor.
Alas, this is no ghost story as I doubt both the possibility and the provenance. But it need not be about either if it reminds us instead of lives both lived and given in service.
Still, in this age of ubiquitous “reality” please tell no one that I now wander the fields of Arlington fully enlivened by a fifth grader’s chance gift which now makes it a place of stones and people.