Places | At Work

Lessons from My Mother, the Grave Gardener

I witnessed my mother work twice as hard as the men under the hot sun. All she had were her hands.

With her sunflower-patterned gardener’s gloves, I’d sit on a towel nearby and study my mom as she plunged her hands into the rich earth before a headstone. A pail by her side was used to collect weeds, dead flowers, and any trash that had gotten caught on the stone. If there was an eternal candle, I’d use a spigot to fill up a small bucket with water so she could wash its holder. Once a wasp hiding behind a candle flew out when my mom jostled its enclosure, stinging me above the brow and subsequently revealing that I’m not deathly allergic like she is. More often than not, we’d bring along a carton of fresh flowers and, taking turns with her gloves, Mom would let me plant a few blooms when I wasn’t busy asking questions.

I fondly remember the time she looked up from her work to explain, “The people beneath the grass cannot hurt you, nor do they want to. You are safe here with me.”