Tender Moments at Forest Hill: Elvis and His Mother’s Grave

“One day when I was down in my basement room, Elvis came through the door — a fairly rare occurrence — carefully stepped over my puddle and, in a low, quiet voice, said, ‘Let’s go for a ride.’

A few minutes later Elvis was at the wheel of the latest Lincoln and we were driving north on Highway 51. I’d assumed Elvis wanted my company for some conversation, but he was quiet and intense — clearly not in a talking mood. A few miles down the road we pulled off into the Forest Hill Cemetery, and Elvis expertly navigated the twists in the road to get to a spot he was familiar with — his mother’s grave site. He didn’t say anything, and I stayed in the car for a moment while he got out and walked up the grassy, sloping hill to the massive monument marking the grave. It was maybe eight feet high — a Christ with his arms outstretched standing before a cross and flanked by angels, all atop a large, multitiered pedestal. Seeing him before that monument, it came to me that, perhaps for the very first time, I could see my friend as a small, fragile human — just like any other. Despite everything else in his life, he was a guy who had lost his mother and missed her terribly.

Elvis stood there for a while, and then, slowly, carefully, with his bare hands, he began to clean the grave — dusting the stone, brushing away some spiderwebs, clearing away some weeds at the base. His hands moved deliberately, with care and tenderness, and I found myself moved with sympathy for him. But I really had no way of understanding what he was feeling — I’d been so young when I lost my mother that I had no idea of what exactly I’d lost. I had no memory of her, and only a single locket photograph. Watching Elvis act as a humble, loving song I found myself wondering what that kind of love felt like.” (Schilling & Crisafulli, 2006: 108-109)

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