Healing comes in many ways.

by DavalosMcCormack on February 16, 2009

Saturday, Kevin and I were doing some errands on Geary Boulevard for our friend Clare.  Geary is a big street  in San Francisco lined with all kinds of stores like BevMo, Mattress shops, movie theatres and car lots, not very pretty but functional.  While we were walking Kevin spotted the Dome of the Columbarium.  What’s a Columbarium, I asked.  Kevin said…”Come on I’ll show you!”We went down a neighborhood street lined with nice family homes and at the end of the street stood a gate and a round columned building with a dome on the top.  This is where people’s ashes are displayed in urns which line the inside walls.

All the urns are in glass niches where you can see little momentos families have placed there to remind them of the lives once lived.

In one part of the Columbarium there was a woman sitting with her coffee, putting flowers in a vase on the outside of the niche where her loved one was placed.  She had some tissues and once in a while she would wipe a tear away.

The center of the room was open and the Dome at the top was made of stained glass.  It lent a warm glow of color to the room.

Then we met Emmitt.  He looked like a caretaker dressed in a work shirt, jeans and a New Orleans baseball cap, but he is actually a philosopher.  He greeted the woman warm and casual, as if he sees her everyday.

He came over to us and introduced himself.  I felt like he was a character in a play that we stumbled into.  We spent 2 hours talking and listening to Emmitt as he gave us a tour of the building.  Not so much the architecture but the inhabitants who now call this home.

He had stories about the people in the urns and how their families will come and pay respects and keep thier memories alive with the momentos, cards and flowers they bring. He talked about the sad stories and the devotion that families showed for their loved ones.

He talked about a husband who would come and visit his wife every week.  She had loved her garden so he would place 2 tomatoes in her “apartment” (Emmitt doesn’t like to call them niches).

After the husband died Emmitt continued to put 2 tomatoes next to their apartment.   He keeps their memory alive by telling thier story and the stories of others.

He could have been simply a janitor, sweeping and going about his chores,  but he is more than that.  He cares.  He cares for those who are gone and those who are left to mourn.  He lightens the pain of death by talking about it.  He says it’s should be natural to grieve and he makes the Columbarium a safe place to cry and to celebrate the lives that were lived.

He says that living should be done with an open heart, and we should tell those we love how much they mean to us.  Emmitt says it’s the life you live that matters, everyday we can make choices to be  giving, caring people.

For Emmit, those are the things that really matter. Taking care of  those you love and taking care of yourself makes life worth living.

And if you do those, even in the face of death, healing comes easier.

Emmitt knows how to live.

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