Rain, Sleet, Fire, Grief


Rain began to fall as I started my walk to the cemetery. As the rain continued, it changed to sleet.

Nearing the cemetery entrance, I heard an emergency vehicle’s siren. A fire truck appeared. I wondered why it hesitated directly across the street from the cemetery and did not zoom past to one of the nearby apartment buildings—the usual destination.

As I arrived at the gates to the cemetery, the fire truck was beginning to turn left in front of me into the cemetery driveway. The driver blasted his horn.

I thought he must be going to use the driveway to turn around and head down the side street he just passed but he proceeded up the slope into the cemetery.

I said to the pedestrian I met, just then, “That’s different”. She smiled and nodded.

Who, in the buildings around the cemetery, had phoned the fire department and given them this address? As I saw the members, in the cab of the truck, talking to each other, I prepared to say to them, through one of their open windows, “They don’t need you here unless they’re all burning in hell.”

Before I got to the truck, the members had already assessed the situation and the truck was starting to move away. I was to do the same when I got up the slope far enough to see past the equipment shed.

There was a fire.

Several mourners were standing beside the grave where an interment took place earlier in the day. They stood near several large, fresh, floral wreaths on tall stands. The fire was contained in a wheelbarrow-sized, metal structure the mourners had brought with them. Flames rose two or three feet high above the fire. The cemetery, though, was still half-covered with snow and the present heavy shower had blown in with more rain in the forecast.

The fire department members had to drive the truck somewhere to turn it around. The driver turned down a driveway, away from the mourners and their warming or grieving or journeying fire, and left the cemetery.

Following the example of the fire department, I, too, changed my path.