Beneath the old oak tree, framed in twilight, a lone silhouette, an old man with his box sat and watched while the graveyard spirits spoke of possibility and certainty.
Who is he?
Some say he is Peter waiting for the next soul, praying one of us in the cemetery will come to him. Some say he’s a figment, a representation of a life lived on earth, a faceless spirit of all who came before, a culmination of sin unrecognized. Others believe he is the sprite called Old Salt, who walks the cemetery during the day and comes to rest under the tree in the evening, because his search for one innocent man tires him. Caught between eternity and earth, he’s doomed to sit, and watch the cemetery from under the tree until he finds him. Still others believe he is one who loved once and whose beloved by a tragic circumstance was lost to life and time. He sits alone in eternal twilight, waiting, with a heart rusted by transitory cares. A bit over-romanticized if you ask me.
And what is the box he holds in his lap?
Anybody’s guess, I suppose. If he’s Peter, perhaps it is the Book of Life or maybe it holds the set of keys, you know, to heaven. It could be empty, its contents released centuries ago never to return while he waits, his own soul empty, like the box. Nobody knows. It’s a mystery. But he sits and no one approaches him. Graveyard souls take fright too soon.
Why is he alone?
He grieves a never-ending grief. He weeps, but there are no tears and no sound does his weeping make. Grief perpetuated darkens mind and soul, self-imposes loneliness and self-pity.
Why does he grieve? Or should I say, for whom?
Digger John, that depends on who he is. Not knowing who he is or what he represents, my observation of him veers in another direction. My bet is he is each spirit in the cemetery taking a turn under the tree. The box is the life they held in their hand while living. Inside the box is the sin each failed to relinquish, the forgiveness each failed to give to others and to themselves. That’s why his grief is perpetual. Only after death do people see that life is the second chance. Only after death does the veil lift and truth comes full circle. Only then do heaven and hell meet reality in the soul of every man. But it’s just a theory, nothing I can say for sure. I’m open to correction.
What’s that stain on his shirt?
Mmmmm. Good observation. I never noticed that before. It evaded my view. I’m not sure. I suppose every man has a stain, something about his life only he knows, hidden beneath his façade. Death exposes the stain, makes us realize it’s too late to go back, to forgive and love and ask for the same. Life is such a brief window.
I never knew Hell was just six feet away.