St. John's Carpatho Russian Orthodox Cemetery is in Stratford, Connecticut. I've been there exactly 19 times. Once each Christmas Eve that I lived with my ex-husband. And once when we burried his mother in October 1987.
It's on a hill and the family plot is near the top, with a clear view of the entire cemetery. There is a big stone, carved with the family name, plus smaller ones that say Father and Mother.
These are actually the grandparents who emmigrated from Subcarpathia (currently Slovakia) before World War I. Ethnic and religious minorities, they escaped by foot across the Carpathian mountains toward freedom of religion in America.
Mike's father was burried on Christmas eve the year before we met. No matter where we were in our preparations for the holiday, we always made the drive from Tarrytown, up the Hutchinson River Parkway, to visit on Christmas eve day. Always.
It was often cold and dismal, with snow on the ground. In our Sunday best, we stood there shivering, and visited, as people do in cemeteries. We reviewed the events of the past year, sometimes out loud, sometimes in silence.
One year was particularly bad. Mike had closed the business started by his grandfather during the depression and he was feeling terribly inadequate. As we turned back to the comfort of a warm car, a pale old woman in a black winter coat greeted us. She said she knew Mike's father and grandfather from the church, and they were so proud of Mike. She put her hand in ours. It was cold.
We thanked her and wished her a Merry Christmas. Feeling better, we got in the car. It occured to us that we hadn't seen another vehicle in the cemetery. Maybe we should offer her a ride.
Looking around from the top of the hill, the woman we had spoken with just moments ago was nowhere in sight.