Karen, 46, Chatham, Ontario, Canada

Walking Ivy in the Graveyard

We found the nuns today. Two long rows in the old section towards the corner near the creek.

We step off the path to see them; dozens of identical stones set flush in the ground. The dog jumps around our feet as we sweep mown grass and fallen leaves away from the edges, revealing markers quite a bit bigger than they first seemed. The limestone slabs are without decoration but the austerity of the plaques contrast the information etched into them. Sister Gertrude Carletta, Professed 51 Years. Sister Aloysius Mary Xavier. Sister Agathe Nigh. Such storybook names, such indulgence. 

We’ve been walking Ivy in the graveyard every night for weeks now, and each night a new discovery: the abolitionist doctor. The farmer with two wives. The family that perished in fire. The children’s corner, where lambs silently graze in perpetual watch over their tiny charges.

Ivy knows our favourite routes by now; knows where the bridge leads to a small pump she can drink at. We come back to the dead to avoid the living. These peaceful rows full of beginnings and endings, legacies carved in stone and granite. A fisherman. A bridge player. A mother. A true friend.

It’s a good place to take our puppy as she learns our commands; the dead are no distraction and foot traffic is light but we step off the path to yield to one another anyway.  A slight nod, a quickened stride. Don’t I know you? Better to pretend not than to exchange pleasantries, air, miasma.

One day soon, we’ll stop instead and chat. Allow jackets to brush against each other. Walk in places crowded with the living and bid the dead thank you and farewell. We’ll hold hands again. We’ll hug our friends.

Such storybook ideas. Such indulgence.

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