Yesterday, Sunday, I wrote about an experience Dawn and I had late in the morning. It is here (and on yesterday’s Facebook for me), if you wish to read it and to better understand this post: https://xteri.me/…/a-sunday-moment-of-life-this-story-ends…/
Dawn and I went back to the cemetery about 4 hours later. Before we left the house, I casually joked, “He will be dead if he’s still there – the heat is incredible.” I couldn’t stop wondering who the man paying homage to the grave might be or who might be interred there. My casual joke wasn’t sincere as there could be no way anyone would stay out in the hot summer sun all day.
Dawn and I went outside to drive back to the cemetery. The inside of the car was sweltering and the pavement indicator told us it was 109 degrees in the driveway. We drove the short distance back to Friendship Cemetery and looped around the backside of the expanse of graves. My stomach dropped as we neared where we had seen the man cradling the grave earlier. The mountain bike was still parked in the same spot, a solitary witness to the Sunday evening heat, although it no longer had bags tied to the handlebars.
The idea that we were going to find the man lying dead in the shimmering green grass crystallized as a certainty in my mind.
The man was still there, although he was now lying under the shade of a very large monument near where we had first seen him, stretched out, his head propped up crazily atop the edge of the large monument now shielding his head from the sun. Not knowing if he was alive or dead in the incredible heat, I got out and walked up, despite Dawn’s objections. I had to KNOW. He was asleep, I determined, after cautiously approaching and fearing the heat had killed him. I watched him closely for several seconds before seeing his chest move slightly. We saw him before noon and the heat had only worsened as the earlier pastoral breezes had fled. He turned out to be much older and Hispanic as I approached him. I guessed he was in his mid-to-late 40s.
Even though I wasn’t certain he hadn’t suffered a heat stroke, I walked around to the grave he had been cradling earlier. The tombstone was low to the ground, decorated with coins, figurines and other moments. Expecting to find someone younger to be buried in the grave, I was shocked to see that the person so beloved by the gentleman cradling the grave died when she was 80. She died on my birthday in 2005. Based on the man’s apparent age, I surmised that the deceased was his mother.
Although I couldn’t rule out he had suffered a heat stroke, he moved a little as I got back in the car. I still felt possessed by a slight feeling of both dread and wonder. It was difficult to leave him there without talking to him; not just to discover the ‘why’ of it all and satisfy my own curiosity but also to ensure he was going to be okay. Logic won in that moment and I drove away, feeling as if a terrible opportunity to learn something had slipped away from my grasp.
When we returned home, I geared up my usual tools to uncover who Catalina was and who the man might have been lying at her grave, cradling it. Fairly quickly, I determined that the gentleman at the cemetery was Catalina’s son. Once I found out who he was, I stopped. I stopped not only because the amount of work involved for the next step would probably be large, but also because I decided that without speaking directly to the son, I would still be stuck in a purgatory of disinformation and speculation.
By using the information I found through research, I matched the time to the data on pictures I had on my birthday from 2005. Even though it isn’t directly relevant to the resolution of this story, the data in the pictures told me I was eating at a now-defunct eatery in Eureka Springs named Café Soleil at the time of Catalina’s death. The son paying homage to his deceased mother had also ridden several long miles on his mountain bike, across the city of Springdale, to spend the hot summer day remembering a life.
Now, at least, I know I could find him if I felt another overwhelming compulsion.
I also know that he survived the day yesterday, although I do wonder how often he visits his mother in that place and what motivates him to miss her so dearly.
(Several people inquired afterwards, knowing me well enough to know I would at least try to satisfy my curiosity enough to get past the day.)