A curious celebration of Father’s Day at Alta Mesa

There’s always a reason for deciding on a whim. From church on Sundays, I often turn right to go back home. Instead, today, I turned left and found myself driving to the Orchard store to pick up flowers for my husband’s grave site. I had planned to visit when my daughter comes next week, or next time my son and his family drive to Palo Alto. This morning, I acted on impulse. I took a left.

I stalked the urge to celebrate Father’s Day at Alta Mesa, my husband’s resting place in Palo Alto.

The cemetery was busy. Numerous cars were cruising at turtle pace on the streets to loved one’s burial sites. Families poured out of vehicles and carefully trod on grass around tomb stones, all bearing flowers and plants for their loved ones. It was lovely all around; blue skies, a few cotton masses lazily floating beneath the blue, trees lightly dancing in the breeze – and yes, flowers and flowers everywhere on the ground around grave stones. The surroundings imaged a vibrant garden bursting with multi-colors on top of a wide expanse of tendered lawn. I thought of a party. The only things missing were balloons.

The place looked magically festive – why shouldn’t it be, when families were celebrating their beloved fathers or husbands who had gone. I carried two lovely plants with large pink blossoms to my husband’s site. I told myself, in honoring him for being the father of my children, I was honoring and thanking God for him. It felt good, whispering in the wind. I had oodles and oodles of stories to tell – shared them in hopes that his spirit would hear. It was the rustle of leaves in the nearby trees that I heard; perhaps, it was his voice camouflaged in the soft blow of the breeze that tousled my hair. Or maybe, it was the gentle face in the fluff of the clouds that I imagined was smiling at me. But whether he was responding to my stories or not, it just felt good.

Looking around, I saw families gathered around their loved ones’ tomb stones, praying, conversing, or just lovingly staring on the ground where their beloved lay. Some were playing on the grass, throwing footballs and freesbies. Some kids were running around tomb stones. A few elderlies were assisted to portable chairs where they sat, bent over their loved one’s grave stone, not stirring but seriously focused on the name on the ground before their eyes. I sat over an hour at a nearby cement bench underneath a poplar tree, surveying the placid scene, watching all that came and went, enjoying the sun and the colors on the ground, lifting my face to the wind, listening to the whispers of fidgeting twigs, delighting in the soft chatter of voices, remembering, and thinking …

There is a peace about that place, so conducive to prayer, meditation and reflection on the magnanimity of God. A powerful reminder of how valuable life is, and of love that transcends death. Surveying the scene at that cemetery, I was reminded about the church Sunday class I attended prior to driving to Alta Mesa. We discussed Paul’s exhortation to love genuinely in the book of Romans. I think, to love with full sincerity is first to be humble. My reflective moments at the cemetery surfaced a profound humility in recognizing that God is the center in the journey of life. That humility surged deep gratitude for what He has done and continues to do for me, for us – He gives and gives and gives, even through our loss, even in our grief.

I came away from there in tears, sorrow and joy mingled in humility. I shall be back to visit again when my daughter comes next week, and next time my son, his wife and my grandson visit – it’ll be the same reflection, the same feelings of humility and gratitude, the same awe for that one God who takes care of all in life and beyond.

From church today, I turned left, to celebrate Father’s Day at Alta Mesa, not just for my husband, but more especially for the One I always call my Abba.

Linda P. Jacob