Years ago, while hiking the bluffs and trails of Ebey’s Landing’s , my friend Joan and I happened across a pioneer cemetery. Perched high above Puget Sound, fronted by miles of shoreline, meadows, and farmland, the well-placed site enjoyed sweeping views so beautiful and heavenly that I’d venture to say visiting nonbelievers may be inclined to reconsider their ideology. While the vista captivated us, the tombstones drew us into conversation and speculation about the names, dates, and words etched into the weathered stones.
Our meandering led us to a flagpole with a plaque, a plaque that left us in quiet reflection. (There’s a first.) Joan insisted I promise to read it at her funeral. I chided her, “What if I go first?” She shot back, “Well, I’m sorry, but you just can’t.” Hopefully we have many many years to work this out, but in the meantime, here’s the lovely poem that moved us so deeply (the view didn’t hurt either).
“A Parable of Immortality” by Henry Van Dyke.
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails in the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, there she goes!”
Gone Where? Gone from my sight… that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes!” there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There she comes!”
“There she comes” Port Townsend, Washington