Paul Greenberg

Here the scandal of materiality -- birth and death, and all the ills that flesh is heir to -- has faded into a rough equality at last. Distinctions once considered important have become immaterial.

I place the little stone I've picked up somewhere and put it on her marker, as is the custom. In the same way, in a different era, you'd leave a calling card. There is no need to exchange words. She understands wordlessly, as she often did in life, while I still see through a glass darkly.

I remember when we chose this address. The man who was going to help us choose a plot was late. It was hot and I was uncomfortable, ready to have done with it. Like the buyer in any real estate market, I gave a glance around, thinking of location, location, location.

There was a shady patch under the trees up a small incline where the principal streets ended. It looked good to a boy from the piney woods. When I indicated it with a nod, the look on her face needed no words. She was horrified. A girl from deep in the heart of Texas, she didn't want to be fenced in. She wanted wide open spaces, under starry skies above. A place on the main drag, where all who passed would be welcome to linger. She was always that way -- hospitable. But never pressing. A friend once said that to be in her presence was to be aware of a great intelligence but one that never imposed. Wouldn't dream of it.

It was hard to leave. But back at the newspaper, deadlines loomed, the usual mass of unimportances awaited, the sweep-second hand on my wristwatch went on sweeping, just as it does outside the cemetery gates. But here there was time, all the time in the world. And beyond.

Even here things were required. I had to find the water faucet. A levite, I am obliged to wash my hands after visiting burial grounds. I lingered for a last look. There was my own grave beside hers, waiting. It promised -- what? Surcease, indifference, a pause forever? No one knows this side of it. But it looked inviting. I tore myself away. It was all right. I'm sure to be back.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.