text & Photos by Chris Ott
A simple photo cant seem to capture the feeling of the moment, though the man one row up from me keeps trying. The afternoon wanes on. I watch others gather around their loved ones grave plots. I hear some talk of the memories of life, others like me are in solitude, pondering death. So many questions as I stare at the acres of waving flags marking all these fallen soldiers. Where is the God that I heard spoken of at the memorial? The Thirteenth Fold.
A small child singing a song approaches me, "here ya go" she says as she hands me an umbrella to shade the harsh afternoon sunlight. "Oh no, I'm ok" I say choking back the waves of tears that have been ebbing for the past hour. As if I haven't said a thing, the child reaches out and hands the umbrella to me. I take it from her tiny hands and we share a short smile. "I'm sorry" she says, glancing down at the grave marker I'm sitting in front of. "Me too", I say glancing over her shoulder to the grave site nine plots away from where we are, where her family is spreading out their picnic on this very sad holiday.
"Actions Not Words Matter" it says on my nephew Nick's grave marker, that I've been sitting crossed leg on the ground in front of for over an hour. Actions, the little girl continues her song as she skips back to her family. She returns and joins them, turns to her familiar grave marker and sings out "I love you Brother". I can almost feel his love for her in that moment, like it was pouring down all around her, powerful.
The umbrella is a large blue and white stripped one. The kind golfers use, with the comfy grip. It reminds me of my dad's golf umbrellas and feels at home in my hand. The shade it casts immediately makes my eyes unsquint and my skin cools down a few degrees. Why didn't I think to bringing one on this hot day? "Next time bring an umbrella", I tell myself. "Next time, bring two so you can hand one off to someone who might need it", I hear my mind echo back.
I return my attentions to my nephew's gravesite. "Actions Not Words Matter". Thinking about what just took place. The child, the action, simple and selfless. The Thirteenth Fold. God is that you?