Part of This Tree

“Is it in the Valley of Remembrance?” I asked.

“No, it’s more east, to the right of the Valley,” Steve said.

“Toward the Matriarchs?”

“Yes, I think it’s toward the Court of the Matriarchs,” he answered, “in Sunland Gardens.”

When we arrived at the cemetery, it was Sunland Gardens Annex that felt most familiar and we strode confidently toward the olive tree, looking for our pre-purchased double plot. The Annex used to be called Babyland, the old burial ground for children under the age of twelve. Some time in its history—in the Seventies, maybe, judging from the tombstone dates—when it was half filled with its junior sized tombstones, it was renamed and the rest of the section was opened to adult burials.

Standing next to the tree, I looked down at my feet in the grass of what would one day be a hole to receive my body and that of Steve. I wanted to take off my shoes, stretch my toes in that grass. I will one day be part of this tree. A glint of brass around the side of the tree caught my eye and I stooped down to see what it was. A small grave, its tombstone the size of a legal envelope was wedged into the ground where the olive tree roots grew into and around it. The 1969 birth and death date of the buried infant sank in—a baby was in the tree, also a part of its life.

My body knew something I could barely wrap words around—how poetic and wonderful it was that my tissue and bones would deconstruct, decay and share the earth in a field of children and babies. It is divine, actually.

The harsher consideration is the possibility, fifty-fifty, that I won’t go first, and my mind skirts away from that prospect. I want more benign times at our gravesite while Steve and I are both living, to offset that devastation.

There’s a bench behind our tree; it is now our tree.

I am sitting when the grounds-man approaches to ask if he can help us locate a grave. Before long Jorge and Steve are friends, and when Giovanni drives up on his John Deere mower with their lunch coolers, I wonder if we have taken their picnic spot as the three men bond, and I take it in, all of us gathered around our olive tree.

Benign times.