Somehow I/we always ends up in a graveyard.
One afternoon, we decided to leave the infant and the elderly in the rented house. After two days of long drives and sauntering, they needed to recover. And we needed our private time as a couple. In the mid-day summer heat, we hopped on the car to find Mille de Etangs or The Thousand Ponds, lured by the aerial shots I saw online. From Rupt Sur Moselle, we followed the route to Faucogney-et-la-Mer, thinking it will be easy to find such a popular spot.
How wrong we were! This is France’s countryside, not the Netherlands. Not everything is 30 minutes away and even if they are, you must have a really good sense of direction or a professional GPS to find the neatly-hidden spots in this “wilderness”. Because we didn’t want to spend all our afternoon with our faces stuck on a tiny screen, we ditched the mobile phone and followed our instinct.
We turned right somewhere, on a tiny village road, unpaved, easy to miss, almost concealed by overgrowth – the kind you see in horror films, which one way or the other, leads to the savage demise of the main character.
We drove until we couldn’t drive any further, to a dead end where the dead literally ends (such satisfaction to use this sentence), the church and cemetery of Saint Martin. At 600 meters above sea level, the graveyard is overlooking the breathtaking valley of Faucogney-et-la-Mer. My first thought how pretty it could have been if the light was softer and not this sharp, glaring afternoon sun. The photos we could have made!
While inspecting the epitaphs, the cemetery ceased to be a tourist spot in my intruding eyes. It has become a reminder of how little time I was given in this borrowed life to make memories with my loved ones, especially with the man holding my hands at that moment, my aging mother and the child I had just brought into this world.
I read an article on the BBC that Bhutan’s secret to happiness is thinking about death everyday. I had been doing that since I left the Philippines eight years ago. I’ve created scenarios in my head about that fateful day I’d receive a call about a family’s death. It has given me nightmares. Sometimes I would wake up crying in the middle of the night. But true to what the Bhutanese are preaching, I’ve learned to forgive quickly and spend as much quality time as I can with my loved ones. Not a single day passes that I do not talk to my mother.
It also got me thinking, how do I want my family to remember me when I die? Do I want to be buried so that they can visit me whenever they want, impose in my will at least once a year like they do in the Philippines. That would be romantic and sad at the same time. Do I want to be cremated, my ashes stuffed in a fancy jar to adorn an altar in my child’s home? Or strewn in the river of Boac where I spent the happiest memories of my childhood?
We thought we were alone, but suddenly an old couple (?) emerged from the back of the church. The man, struggling with his stride, slowly and laboriously lowered a simple bouquet of flowers to a grave. I watched (and photographed) him between the crumbling steel gate of the cemetery, doing the sign of the cross and uttering a prayer for the deceased. He was very old, maybe about 80. I wondered, will anybody still remember me at that age?
They say that if you want to live forever, you either write a book or do good deeds that people will remember. But you know what? I don’t really mind. When I am dead, I couldn’t care less if people remember me. What I aspire nowadays is that my daughter will get to know me so that she will never forget where she came from and hopefully that will inspire her to become a good person.
If you happen to be in the Vosges and crazy enough to want to visit this beautiful sanctuary, I found this direction online:
How to get from center of Faucogney-et-la-Mer to Église Saint-Martin
Continue on Avenue Duplessis Deville. Follow the road for 70 m. Turn right into Faubourg Saint-Nicolas. Follow the road for 200 m. Keep slightly right on Rue des Chars. Follow the road for 500 m. Continue on D 72. Follow the road for 200 m. Turn left. Follow the road for 175 m. Turn right. Follow the road for 60 m. Turn left. Follow the road for 300 m. Keep slightly left. Follow the road for 10 m. Keep slightly left. Follow the road for 10 m. Go straight ahead. Follow the road for 60 m. Keep slightly left. Follow the road for 60 m. Turn right. Follow the road for 50 m. Keep slightly left. Follow the road for 80 m. Turn right. Follow the road for 90 m. Keep slightly right. Follow the road for 200 m. Église Saint-Martin.