Searching For Seymour | The Cemetery
On my drive home from family dinner tonight I passed by my Papa Seymour’s grave. It took me two city blocks to muster up the courage to turn around and enter the cemetery, an uncomfortable place for living people like me. With a deep, long breath I pulled into the old Nusach H’Ari Cemetery in Ferndale, just north of 8 Mile Road at Woodward
“I live here,” said Paul, H’Ari’s caretaker. Ari in Hebrew means lion, and Paul’s thick mane flowed down all the edges of his kind face, mingling with the smoke of his lit cigarette.
“Do you ever get freaked out with all the people underground?”
“Oh, no. It’s the people above ground that freak me out.”
He led me through the narrow rows of gravestones, down dirt paths and here and there across a patch of well-kept grass. I thought about the few feet of dirt beneath me that separated life from death. Paul chatted as we walked, a strangely beautiful ramble of words and steps that soon landed us at D-050, Seymour Wedes.
As we stood together over my grandfather’s grave, I told him how masked robbers at his costume jewelry store had killed Seymour in 1970. Paul’s face betrayed little emotion, and I wondered how many widows and orphans and curious grandchildren he had led to the material remains of their departed loved ones. How many times had he opened his directory and turned a grave number into a human name, with all of its emotive baggage
I lingered a few minutes over the grave alone, touching the stone and running my hands across the flowers that someone had planted there. I felt a tug from the past pulling me down to the ground, as if the weight of my father’s pain suddenly fell upon my shoulders. Then history flooded in, not in pictures or sounds – I have yet to find those – but simply in raw feelings. How do you remember someone you’ve never met?
As I walked out, Paul rejoined me and pointed to a bird that lives in the crevice of his roof in the little stone building at the center of the cemetery. He told me how long the bird had been living there, and it occurred to me that it takes a certain kind of misanthropy to work the cemetery. And that the occupational hazard of such a job is a heavy dose of fatalism.
“Read Nostradamus. Everything that’s happening right now was predicted. Nostradamus. And George Orwell.”
As I packed up to leave, Paul turned to me and asked, “Hey, did they ever find the guy who killed your grandfather?”
He shook his head with evident disillusionment, replying: “The people outside those gates are cruel, man.”