Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cosmic Charlie

Last fall, P-Love and I took a trip down to LA to see Furthur close out the tour with their shows at the Greek Theater there. We also decided that it was important that we make the trek to visit and tend to the grave of P-Love's brother, Charlie.  So we made the drive down south, early on a Saturday morning and arrived in Orange County in the early afternoon.

It's a small, Catholic, cemetery - nestled in between one housing development and another, in a very affluent area. I remark, "Oh.  It's Catholic."  P-Love wonders if I was surprised by this.  I wasn't surprised in that his family IS Catholic and being buried in a Catholic cemetery would make sense.  It's more that I hadn't realized that his brother had remained quite active in the church - P-Love hadn't ever mentioned it, so I was putting that together in my head as we drove up to the cemetery and was feeling some surprise at how much more I understood about P-Love's life by that added detail.  It is a quiet, beautiful, and well-kept cemetery.  P-Love tells me that Nicole Brown-Simpson is buried here and when we arrive, I see that there is one grave that has attracted a group of people, seemingly there at random and not at all dressed for a funeral - they all have bouquets of flowers that they are placing, atop an already growing mound of flowers - I imagine that this must be her grave but I decide that finding out would risk being too disrespectful.

We drive to the end of the lane that runs through the cemetery.  Charlie's grave is near the edge of a small hill where a tree provides shade over a marble bench that sits to the right of his plot.  As we walk to it, I send silent prayers of apology to the departed whose graves we occasionally travel over (I feel it necessary to respect the beloved dead of others in ways that I would want them to respect mine).  We are alone in the section of the cemetery we are in.

I can feel the change in P-Love the moment that he gets close - the air around him changes to one of heaviness, sadness, and rainclouds - very much not his normal state of being.  I can't imagine how the loss of a loved sibling affects a person, especially one that feels as deeply as P-Love does (he doesn't let on but he is a man of great depth). To P-Love, his family is of the highest import and his family is very close-knit. As he reaches his brother's grave, he takes a knee, wiping away fallen leaves before he kisses his fingertips, presses that kiss to the headstone and says, "I miss you, Brother."

We have brought a picnic lunch with us and we set ourselves up on the marble bench under the tree.  It is a gorgeous day - the sun is high in the sky, burning out the last of the summer with a one-day final burst of heat and the Santa Ana winds are racing across the grass.  Despite the glory of the day, it would be too easy to get lost in the gloom of the task ahead of us so I ask P-Love what his favorite memories are of his brother, Charlie.  He tells me about when they were growing up and the things that siblings to do each other.  He tells me of shows that he, his sister, and Charlie all went to when they were adults. He talked a little bit about the funeral and why the headstone didn't end with "Beloved Husband, Father,  Brother and Son" instead of just "Beloved Husband and Father". I get a glimpse into the soul of this man, who has taken me into his heart, as he tells me these things.  I hope that talking about the things that he loved about his brother, helps P-Love feel lighter than he might have otherwise.

We finish our quiet lunch and Peter sets about clearing away the dirt around the flower vase and putting in fresh flowers.  Then he clears away the grass and dirt that has collected around Charlie's headstone before he sets to cleaning the stone itself.  I set myself to putting away our lunch and to cleaning the marble bench.  Peter takes out the large, silver, "Steal Your Face" sticker we'd ordered earlier in the week and he placed it on the headstone.  When this is all finished, P-Love takes a few moments to take a few pictures of the grave having been tended to.  P-Love's parents will want these as it's important to them to know that someone is tending to the grave of their oldest son (the family lives fairly far away, making it hard to make regular visits to Charlie's grave). When P-Love is done, he slumps back down onto the marble bench.  I notice that the Santa Ana's have picked up a bit, winds rushing through the area that go 'shhhh' through the trees and that gently rock the windchimes hung here and there.

I sit quietly behind P-Love as he sits on the edge of the bench and says his silent prayers to his brother.  I can feel his tears of sorrow - I know he dearly misses his brother.  I place my hand on him, gently, letting love flow through my fingers.  I know P-Love well enough to know that waiting for him to indicate what he wants is what needs to happen here - any prompting or questions will break his thoughts of the moment and i know he needs this time.  It hurts my heart to see him have to go through such grief but these are the things that life deals us and that we either learn to cope with or be swallowed up by.  After a time, we realize that the hour is getting late and we must depart - we have the last Furthur concert we'll see for awhile.  It's an appropriate tribute to Charlie that we should not sit here in sorrow all day but that we should celebrate life in one of the ways that he loved to celebrate it - with the music of the Grateful Dead.

The Blessed Mother, bathed in sunlight, keeps all her children close to her heart.
There was definitely a Grateful Dead twist to the entire day.  Old folklore has it that the grateful dead were the spirits of someone who had died and needed help to be buried.  Whomever helped that spirit's body receive a proper burial was rewarded in some way whether it be with the saving of that person's life or the bestowing of gifts of riches.  Not only had P-Love helped to bury his brother but on this day, he was making sure that the grave was properly tended (as he has so often done over the years).  I am convinced that Charlie saw fit to send us energies that we would have a most fantastic evening at the show that night because we did have one amazing and magical night. 

Thank you for that, Cosmic Charlie. You are loved and missed by many here. 

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