Monumental Destiny

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Running up to the wrought iron gates, I push on but tread lightly, afraid that my heavy breaths betray those resting in peace. I fear that my sharp exhales are insulting, a painful reminder to each buried body of a former life when the heart still pumped blood and the lungs still served oxygen. In a place of eternal rest, I'm hyper-aware of how alive I am today. I know that typical running routes don't usually end up in a cemetery, but once or twice a week mine do.

As I run past tombstone after tombstone, I skim the dates. 1914-2002. A husband buried next to his wife, his tombstone lauding him for many faithful years of marriage. 1989-1999. An engraved picture of a 10-year-old little girl stares back at me, and I feel guilty for outliving her by 14 years. Each gravestone is a short snippet of a life, tidily summed up in two descriptors: a name and years living. As many tombstones as there are strewn along these hills, how many of these lives are still captured in the memories of the living?

I'm reminded of death, that certain, guaranteed fate to each person's life. It's a reality that is quickly forgotten among my mid-20's group of friends. Everything we do is supposed to be a beginning; beginning of adulthood, beginning of marriages and family, or the beginning of our careers. All these beginnings seem to bloom with limitless possibilities and opportunities, but here I am at the cemetery face-to-face, uncomfortably so, with the end of a thousand lives come and gone, completely unknown to me.

But then there are some days when I run though, and I hardly notice that the rows and rows of standing stones are there, the thought of them weathered and faded away in my mind, like some of their carved engravings. Most times it's because I'm focused on finishing up my run to get on to the next thing in my day, but sometimes it's because I don't feel like thinking about the losing or the loss of somebody I care about, to remember a tombstone in another cemetery somewhere that has a face, story, and ending that I know.

With a Perspective, I'm Amanda Hu.


Amanda Hu lives in Oakland and works in the construction industry.