Want to hear the story of how I had an existential crisis in a cemetery as a child? Then keep on reading!
I’ve visited the cemetery up North where most of my family is buried for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t make sense of the history of it when I was young, the names, the dates, only that it was always hot when we went and that my mom would douse my sister and I in bug spray so we wouldn’t get bitten by black flies.
The one that stands out most to me was when I was five, or possibly younger. I remember being with my sister and parents in the cemetery and some other relatives, possibly a great uncle and aunt and a handful of cousins, maybe even my nana and grandpa. I don’t remember the specifics, vague outlines of who may or may not have been there. The important thing was that even though I understood little about cemeteries two things were important at that visit: 1) I knew that cemeteries were where dead people were buried and 2) I could read.
I was wandering around the cemetery when I happened upon a grave that made me freeze up reading it. Whenever my mom retold the story she would tell me how I turned all white from my face to my toes. Because on the grave stone I saw my first and last name, spelled exactly the same from the “h” at the end of Sarah to the “or” that ends O’Connor. I remember shivering and I remember looking to my parents, my relatives, and saying in a shaky voice “Am I dead?” Because in those short few moments of reading my name and braving the question I believed I was a ghost, that my parents knew I had died and didn’t want to scare or upset me by telling me the truth, that everyone was too nice to tell me I was dead.
They all laughed, the way all adults do when a child asks an absurd question. The Sarah O’Connor on the gravestone was a great-aunt, a great-great-great aunt to my sister and I but that was too complicated and too long to say, one great was suffice. She had died long ago and so it made sense that she was buried in the cemetery with the rest of my ancestors, but my name was the last thing I ever expected to see on a gravestone.
Of course I then got it into my head that I was named after that aunt, that my boring common name was just a smidge more special than the others because it was after a family member. I told this to people at school, I would brag about it to no one in particular until I heard my parents talking to either some other family members or friends (it really doesn’t matter who) and they said “We just let her say that, it makes her feel good.” Which made me stop. I had never felt stupider, more idiotic than then.
It’s weird how much seeing my name on a gravestone changed certain things, made me consider I was a dead little ghost girl to being named after a forgotten relative when really my parents just liked the name Sarah for some reason. Little things and occurrences, no more than a short story that has a lasting impact.