The Student’s Grave

One Friday evening in 1973 at age 16 I picked up my girlfriend, Ellen, and a mutual friend, Karen. The three of us sat in the front seat of my mother’s Pontiac and we took off for destinations as yet undecided.

Southwestern Pennsylvania was strung with never ending arteries of twisting two-lane pavement through rolling hills and dense forest. Some- times we just drove around looking for friends or parties. This evening Ellen and Karen told me the story of a young man in their class who they remember as limping through the halls for about a year before he finally died. To- night, they said, was the anniversary of his death, a tragic past played out two years earlier in junior high school. Since I was a grade level above the two of them, a senior now, I hadn’t known the boy, nor remembered him.

They named the cemetery where he was buried, possibly the largest cemetery in the county, on a countryside hill halfway between two towns and just off of Route 30 in Greensburg.

I had been to the cemetery before to visit the graves of relatives and remembered it as a maze of single-lane pavement that wound around hun- dreds of gravesites. It was dark and I asked the girls to climb into the back seat and keep their heads down because I was going to surprise them with my destination. I turned onto Route 30 and drove the three miles, entering at the wrought iron gate and began weaving carelessly through the narrow lanes.

The girls half sat up now and peering through the window noticed the gravestones and began screaming. I was driving too fast for conditions, but the screams made me want to move faster and turn corners sharper. I re- member coming around a bend and heading down an embankment, and then quickly made a sharp turn and drove the car up onto the grass andstopped.

The girls had had enough, I thought. We were all laughing and jumped out of the car, kidding each other about being in a cemetery after dark.

But then the girls turned and followed the headlight beam shining on a nearby grave and suddenly became silent. We had stopped at the young man’s grave and our headlights were illuminating his gravestone.

This was not a situation where the grave was lit up nearby, but the car’s headlights were directly shining on the headstone just a few feet away.

It was too much of a coincidence for any of us to imagine. Part of us wanted to get out of the cemetery quicker than we had arrived and part of us wanted to approach the grave and say something. I remember touching the gravestone momentarily, but the feeling of fear was more overwhelming and we soon drove away.

Without a handbook on life’s little mysteries there is no way to accurately explain what had just happened to us. Most likely it was a random coincidence. If we try to look to the paranormal for an explanation we seem to arrive at two theories.

The first would have the spirit of the deceased guiding the driver to his grave and the second explanation would have the thoughts of living relatives of the young man doing the guiding.

Either of the latter two theories raises more questions that we were not willing to consider while we were still in the cemetery. Some distance away and thinking more rationally we wanted to believe that a spirit had somehow guided us, but the more prudent explanation was just a wild coinci- dence.

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