Those Who Have Passed

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There were birds singing at dawn, just as there were the day before. There were low clouds on the eastern horizon that made the sun’s appearance delayed, prolonging Golden Hour. It was an amazingly beautiful, peaceful setting on the first morning following the funeral.

Four weeks have passed. Green grass has replaced dirt and grows beneath an etched name on a panel. But this is a different name, in a different place, that is now — in a very different time.

Some comment on the first name before moving on to the next name, and the next name after that. The "after that’s" grow in number from panels linked to one another from two distant, not-so-tall ends, but make no mistake: the names, even on the shortest of panels, speak to heights from beyond the grave.

The closer towards the center, the more silent the voices of the visitors become, and the longer and more distant their gaze extends into a horizon that exists only feet in front of them. As eyes attempt to focus on reading each name, the task becomes seemingly impossible.

Further towards the center, the date continues to grow on each attached panel; so, too, does the height of the wall that the panels together form. The number of names etched upon the panels grow in proportion as well. The higher the wall, the more silent the living observers, and the louder the number of voices that extend from the wall in their silence.

Behind the viewers of the wall, several canopies offer shade from a warm day. Assistants try to help those searching for the location of the name of a friend, a relative, a fellow soldier, who died during the Vietnam War. Some stand in a group learning about the replica of the wall dedicated to soldiers of the war. Others have come and gone, as told by what they left behind.

Small pieces of paper flap in the wind at the base of a number of the panels, words written earlier by younger visitors to the wall, words like "We will never forget you," and  "Thank you," and on, and on, and on. Well wishes, sorrow, and hope seem present among them. The closer to the center, the wind also stirs the sound of the flags flying above it.

At the center, the noise that can accompany a modern day mind falls silent. The number of lives speaking from behind the many names etched into this wall have replaced the sounds of the cars passing by on the street, the conversations from beneath the canopies in the background, the thoughts of distances travelled. Those who have died live still, and it is difficult not to see this, or to hear this in every sound that remains.

The dates change as the height in the attached panels descends, as do the number of names, until the other end is reached. There, the birds sing from the trees of a surrounding neighborhood, much like those in the cemetery did some four weeks ago. It is extremely difficult to think of one person dying, without thinking of all who have passed.