I got a letter today from the cemetery. It pointed out that we are approaching the one year mark of the burial but have yet to erect a gravestone for Jack. If we do not have one by the year mark, the cemetery will place a plain flat marker there for us, for a fee.
Margaret, too, has noted that we haven't yet taken care of this detail. I'm sure to her it seems as if we just can't get our crap together to mark where Jack's ashes are buried. And getting our crap together has been difficult. I have much less energy and gumption than before. Tim is plodding along doing what he needs to do and has also been picking up my slack-- paying the bills I used to pay, cooking dinner, and making runs to he store.
But something "extra" like trying to figure out how to capture what Jack was like on a slab of granite? Has seemed like far too much for either of us. I've been telling people we are following the Jewish tradition of waiting one year, not because we are Jewish, but because I haven't been able to face it yet.
Of course I think deep down I am just morally opposed to any parent having to commemorate the spot where her child is buried, because I don't think moms should have to bury their children. Ever. So Jack's blank grave is, in a way, my silent protest.
Not that mothers haven't been doing this since the beginning of time, placing rocks or crude wooden crosses on top of tiny mounds of dirt all around the world-- if they were fortunate enough to know their chidrens' resting places. In fact, many bereaved mothers have not had the opportunity that I have. They've had to leave their children behind on a wagon trail, in a concentration camp, a jungle, or a desert, with no chance to mark or revisit the spot. I am fortunate that the cemetery is in my town, and that the small, wooden box of ashes, along with 3 tiny lego pieces, is buried right next to my mom.
When, as a teen, I used to drive her old minivan to the cemetery in the dying light, startling the deer in my headlights, I would walk over to her grave. Sometimes I would cry. Other times I would just pat the stone, look around a little, get back in her/my car, and drive away. But even at dusk, I could see that some graves were unmarked, save the little tin and plastic nameplates from the funeral parlors. Many were several years old. This must have been long before the 1-year rule was adopted. I felt sorry for those people. They seemed so neglected. I figured their families were too poor to buy a stone or had forgotten about their loved ones completely.
Now I realize that cemeteries are different for different people. My grandparents take great solace in visiting my uncle, their beloved son, at the cemetery where he is buried. They have planted lovely flowers there and made it a special place to visit.
I went to my mom's cemetery, infrequently and always alone, speaking into my soul about how hard it was to be without her.
And Jack's grave? Will eventually have some sort of stone. I want to have a place people can go to pay their respects. Where it can be what it needs to be for them. I'm thinking of seeing if a stone bench will fit, instead of a headstone, so I can continue my protest (in a small way) yet provide a place for people to sit, pray, laugh, or cry.
I'll update you when (and if) we make any progress.
But the whole process seems paralyzing and leaves me with questions:
How do you capture the sparkle in an eye? A contagious laugh? Wit? Wisdom? A pat on a sister's back? How do you show a love of logic and math coupled with words, words, and more words? An introvert? A leader? The world's softest cheek?
Can we truly convey the essence of someone who touched so many lives in 12 years, but should have had about 71 more to do it in?
No. Of course not.
I guess sometimes those little tin and plastic markers really say a lot.