Monday, July 23, 2012

One Foot in the Grave

I suppose everyone has heard the expression, “one foot in the grave”, meaning not long for this world. We are all here on earth for a very short time, and death eventually comes to everyone. But at the risk of seeming irreverent, I just have to share what happened to me a couple of weeks ago that gave new meaning to this phrase. I have told the story to a few people, and one particular friend said, “You HAVE to write that in your blog.” Perhaps she is right; everyone needs a good laugh now and then, even at the expense of someone else.

It started innocently enough. I have been working on a cataloging project in my community, capturing information at the local cemetery in order to have a searchable database and visual plotting of all those buried there. This is a spare time project, so I often spontaneously decide to drive out to the cemetery to do my work, without anyone else being aware of my coming and going. This particular evening, I arrived about an hour before sundown, and began walking down one row after another. As I prepared to take a digital photo of one of the headstones, I stepped in front of it and crouched to get a close-up shot. Before I knew what was about to happen, my left leg sank suddenly and swiftly into the dirt-covered grave, all the way up to my knee!

Of course, the first fleeting thought I had was, “How far down does this thing go?” I have stood by many graves at this very cemetery, aware of the large gaping hole hidden underneath the velvet-draped casket. And I have even watched the caskets lowered into the ground, but I had no concept of the depth of those holes.

My second spontaneous thought was, “It’s almost dark and no one knows I am out here.” That thought was interwoven with all the stories and impressions people have about cemeteries and the dead bodies who are buried there. Of course, those were thoughts that flashed through my mind within probably the first 2 seconds. By then, I was already instinctively flying back out of the grave the same way I went in!

Now, under ordinary circumstances, I don’t move really fast. I have had arthritic knees since I was in college, so my movements are not usually swift ones. But on that particular evening, I most likely set a record for how fast one can fall into a hole with one foot and get back out on solid ground. My quick ejection also served to get my heart rate up to an optimum level.

After the initial panic wore off, I began to see the humor in the situation. The grave was, coincidentally, a fairly new one—the father of one of my high school classmates. I pondered: do I email her and say, “Hey, I just dropped in on your dad yesterday”? Nope; too insensitive. Should I tell people I have grave concerns? Perhaps I hum to myself that old hymn, “Low in the grave he lay” . . . naw, that’s too irreverent. Maybe I tell folks I had a sinking feeling about the cemetery project . . .

Okay, I’m finished with the bad puns. And I will be certain not to “fall” for any more misrepresented graves—from now on, the plots have to be on solid ground before I take another step.

Judy Martin Bowyer
Copyright © 2012